Let's Cook French: A Family Cookbook by Claudine Pépin, illustrations by Shorey Wesen & Jacques Pépin, 96 pp, RL: 3
As the daughter of Jacques Pépin, one of the first celebrity chefs on American television, Claudine Pépin has lived a life that makes her the perfect person to write a bilingual family cookbook featuring French cuisine. As she writes in her introduction, she "didn't grow up knowing how to cook," but she was around "tremendously good food." As a child, she spent summers in France with her grandmother, but instead of wearing a beret and riding a bicycle with a baguette under her arm, she was out in the country, peeling potatoes and eating a special goat cheese that was pungent enough that, when she would sweat, she "stank like goat cheese." Claudine cooked with her father on his show, as well as on other people's food shows. Along with her father, mother and twelve-year-old daughter, Pépin's husband, a professional chef and instructor at Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts, helped put together Let's Cook French: A Family Cookbook. As someone who loves cooking (and eating), especially when I know it is being enjoyed by my loved ones, I appreciate the traditions that three generations of a family have to share in this cookbook. I also love what Claudine said about her daughter in an interview with the Washington Post,
Shorey eats just about anything. That said, she doesn't like sweet potatoes. And asparagus makes her shudder - yet I've seen her eat it when we're out somewhere and it's put on her plate. That has to do with respect, for the food and those who made it.
If I can't pass on a love of food, I hope that, like Pépin, I, too have passed on a respect for food and the people who make it.
Pépin divides the book into four parts with headings that I love: To Start, To Continue, On the Side and To Finish. There are well known dishes you might expect, like Vichyssoise, Boeuf Bourguignon, Salade Niçoise, Crème Brûlée, Quiche, and Claudine's special Croque Monsieur, and, of course, Crêpes. There are also traditional recipes that I've heard of but never eaten and plan to make like Gougères, which are cheese puffs with suggestions on how to serve (warm and in a bread basket lined with a cloth napkin, naturellement) and Sablés, a French version of the sugar cookie.
To get a better idea of the layout and complexity of the recipes in Let's Cook French, you can sample the Whole Roasted Chicken with Herbs of Provence, a classic Sunday dinner in France. As someone who likes to cook, these recipes and ingredients are not intimidating. Although the font is small, the instructions are always contained on one page. Honestly, while I adore the idea of a family cookbook, especially a bilingual one, I really think that this would be a fantastic cookbook to give to an adult chef who is comfortable in the kitchen and interested in exploring French cuisine for the first time. At least, that's how I plan to use this book!
Source: Review Copy