Trubek’s slim overview of the French influence on culinary history suffers from the dry rhetoric of academese. Trubek dully and straightforwardly examines the development of the culinary profession from the Middle Ages to the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Her basic unarguable premise is that “haute cuisine equals professional cuisine.” What began during medieval courtly feasts as social displays moved into chateaux, manor houses, and noble households before becoming (at around 1830) more widely consumer-oriented—in hotels, private clubs, and restaurants. Too often the text reads like an introductory course description. Sub-divisions of chapters discuss stocks, sauces, knife skills, cooking methods, pastry; “public dining in France during the Nineteenth Century”; a “definition of the bourgeoisie”; the “rigid and extremely hierarchical division of labor” between artisan and professional chefs; an overview of “associations and journals”; a plea for “professional rules.” Unfortunately, very little of this is done with seasoning or panache. End-heavy with scholarly appendices (common French culinary terms; a few bland recipes), notes, and bibliography, the book could have benefited from more substantial recipes.
A slow-to-boil (if impeccably researched) history and reference source for the cooking student and scholar.