“What is a cookbook? Note the liberty taken to avoid
writing “a good cookbook” since, as gastronomy obliges, a cookbook
should not be all that bad.
The last thing wanted! In essence and by its very nature, it
obliges good heartedness, imposes generosity and commands an ontological pleasure.
Therefore, a cookbook worthy of its name must be, first
and foremost, obligated to its time. Imperatively it should be in season,
of the moment and conjugate with the “present incitement”, which does not prevent
memory and even authorizes occasional posterity. In
his very pagan Noces, doesn’t Albert Camus proclaim: “true
generosity towards the future consists in giving all to the present”?
If I had to take some of these breviaries with me, I promise you
there would not be more than thirty on my desert island. An ideal library
with the antiquity Re coquinaria by Apicius, Le Viandier by Guillaume
Tirel alias Taillevent, L’Art de la Cuisine (The Art of Cooking) by Marie-Antoine Carême, Jules Gouffé’s Le Livre de Cuisine (The Cookbook), Escoffier’s le Guide Culinaire (Culinary Guide), la Cuisine en plein air (Outdoor Cooking) by Edouard de Pomiane (a scientist from the 30s and 40s), Je sais cuisiner (I Know How to Cook) by Ginette Mathiot, Secrets de la casserole (Secrets of the Pot) by the chemist Hervé This, a good old Larousse Gastronomique, the transalpine bible, Il cucchiaio d’Argento, the amazing The Modernist, the formidable saga
Dix façons de préparer… (Ten Ways to Prepare …) tomatoes, caviar, corn and also heart, blood and love published by L’Epure, and since our modern times are accelerating as fast as our chiefs see themselves as living gods, let us only mention two books per generation; Paul Bocuse’s Cuisine du Marché (The Market Kitchen), Alain Chapel’s La Cuisine, c’est beaucoup plus que des recettes (Cooking is Much More Than Just Recipes), La grande cuisine minceur (Great Slimming Cooking) by Michel Guérard … And on to a monument: Le Grand Dictionnaire de cuisine (The Great Cooking Dictionary) by Alexandre Dumas.
Some more curiosities like a collection, its title unfortunately
forgotten, about prison nosh by an ex-prisoner, and yet another on
cooking turtles (my island would be populated with them), the wacky Chairs de Poule (Goose Bumps) by the critic François Simon, ideal for conscientiously ruining a
chicken, Les Dîners de Gala de Salvador Dali and the no less surreal
Cuisine Paléolithique (Paleolithic Cooking) by Joseph Delteil for the following ultimate dish: “Catch a beautiful Garenne rabbit in full flight by the ears. Attach it by
the hind legs to a nice tree trunk – if possible a softwood – in the center of a
wood of some twenty or twenty-five hectares. Without any further ado, set fire to all
the forest. Eat the beast without salt, while sitting on the still-hot rocks and among the
divine smells of the forest fire.”
And so finally the L’Heptaméron des Gourmets.
(La Dive Cocagne, Emmanuel Rubin, 2017, p.8)