When a good friend bought me Larousse Gastronomique, the world’s most famous culinary reference book, my first thought, even as I hugged it tight with joy, was, “Now, what have you gone and done?” For surely, such a magnificent gift presented apropos nothing could only mean he was trying to assuage his guilt for wrongs committed.
Two years hence, as I pickle, braise, baste, and sauté (or something that resembles these processes) exotic recipes in my humble kitchen, the question remains unanswered, but the book, all 1,350 pages of it, and as heavy as my puppy, is dog-eared, fragrant with splashes of sauce, and certainly as vital to the cooking process as the gas stove itself. The latest edition of this tome, which was conceived by French chef Proper Montagne in Paris in 1938, is a dictionary starting with Abaisse (rolled out pastry) and ending with Zuppa Inglese (Neapolitan pastry); with recipes for every imaginable ingredient (“Baked Fennel” with “Chicken Liver Omelet” anyone?); an engrossing history of food traditions; cooking techniques, photographs—one of which is of a cheese large as a child—and maps, should you want to visit the place of origin of your favourite foreign wine. If you don’t cook, you will want to after acquiring Larousse. If still not, it looks great on the bookshelf, and its weight lends itself to use as a weapon or a hard pillow.
Friend, all is forgiven.