My review today is for In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France by Susan Herrmann Loomis, a brand new release this week from the author who lives and runs a cookery school in Normandy.
Many years ago I read Susan’s memoirs On Rue Tatin: The Simple Pleasures of Life in a Small French Town and Tarte Tatin: More of La Belle Vie on Rue Tatin about how she found herself buying a derelict convent in the grounds of the church in the Norman town of Louviers and how she turned it into a beautiful family home and business too. Her latest book, In A French Kitchen is a cookbook with 85 recipes, but it is a narrated journey too. Susan takes us from one French kitchen to another via her recollections and recipes (as well as those of her French friends), learning the French way as we go and covering everything from breakfasts, French breads, salads, main dishes, cheese, desserts and more. It was quite exciting to step back into her kitchen and read more about her home cooking experiences in France. Quite early on in the book she walks us around her French kitchen, which was described so beautifully I could visualise it all, and have to admit was rather jealous.
I am probably not the target market for this book as I live and cook regularly in France, but even I learned a lot as I read it; small nuggets of information that I’ll take with me to enhance my vinaigrettes, enliven my salads and balance my cheese board, among other things. Reading this book made me realise that I'm guilty of getting stuck in my favourite flavours and dishes, but Susan has given me lots of new ideas to try and thankfully most of them are simple ones that aren't going to leave me flustered or frustrated. The recipes seemed easy to follow and were clearly explained, with measurements in metric and cups, and the cake I tried (Madame Korn’s Quick Lemon Cake) was delicious. I loved the emphasis on seasonality and the month-by-month meal planning section will be something I dip into regularly for ideas and inspiration.
I also loved that an American has taught me that it is likely that Cheddar cheese was born when French stonemasons from the Auvergne (where the delicious and very Cheddary Cantal originates from) settled in Somerset after working in Scotland and began to make cheese. This was certainly news to me but as I fell upon Cantal when I first arrived in France as a Cheddar substitute, I can certainly believe it.
This book would be perfect for anyone who has an interest in the French way with food and who enjoys cooking great tasting, real, home meals.
In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France is published by The Penguin Group who sent me a copy to review, and is available in hardback or ebook format from Amazon and all good book shops. I’m delighted to be welcoming Susan to the blog on Friday for a France et Moi interview.