Monday, June 29, 2015

In a French Kitchen by Susan Herrmann Loomis

I'm deeply ashamed of the state of my kitchen.  Messy cupboards, dishes in the sink; no pantry to speak of due to the size of my teeny tiny kitchen.  My boyfriend set up shelves in my basement for me to use as a kinda-sorta storage space for canned goods and other staples for cooking, but it's no where near the wonderful food spaces described in Susan Herrmann Loomis' book In a French Kitchen.  Susan lives in the small French village of Louviers.  She's a cook, and is in the perfect place to enjoy all the joy that cooking and eating a good meal brings.  It really is one of the most basic of  simple human pleasures.  

Not everyone enjoys cooking; Susan says:

 "Like my friends and acquaintances here, the French love to eat, so they make the time to cook.  But cooking isn't necessarily the part that gives them joy.  Cooking with quality ingredients, using simple techniques and organization, is simply the straightest path to a delicious, warming moment at the table."  

This is a book about the French, and how they eat. It's about having an organized pantry, buying quality foods--small quantities are better than a large amount of so-so stuff.  Eating with all of our senses; slowing down, putting good food in our bodies, enjoying the good stuff every day without eating too much.  The French don't snack much, but when they do, it's small nibbles of a great cheese, or a bit of fruit or bread.  While it is very hard (if not impossible) for most Americans to shop at local markets multiple times a week, it is possible for us to take care in choosing what we put in our baskets and our mouths.  Fresh, simple, and extensive use of leftovers are all part of everyday French cooking.  I enjoyed reading about Susan and her friends; each has a different method of creating delicious meals for their families.  What ties them all together is their appreciation for home, a good meal, and time spent with family. 

 I've come away with a desire to clean out my kitchen, organize my cupboards, and slow down and enjoy my food.  Take the time to cook simple meals using fresh ingredients.  And yes, it's ok to eat cheese and use cream.  A little goes a long way towards flavor and satisfaction.  Grow some herbs in pots.  Try a vegetable garden in your back yard.  Start small.  There's an immense satisfaction from eating food you've grown yourself, even if it's simply fresh basil or rosemary from a pot in your kitchen window. 

Susan has filled her book with oodles of simple recipes, lists to help you organize your pantry, and an ingredient source list at the back of the book for places in the United States to order spices, condiments, and French treats.  

Rating:  7/10 for a delicious walk through contemporary French home cooking.  

Available in hardcover and ebook.

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