ESCOFFIER: Master Chef by Marjory Bartlett Sanger

ESCOFFIER: Master Chef

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Today we are accustomed to seeing Veronique on a menu. . . . "" Those who are, or would like to be, will delight in Sanger's anecdotal history, which makes no concessions to young readers' possible ignorance of menu French or lack of recognition of such paraded names as Georges Sand, Verlaine and Proust. (A recipe for those providential madeleines is appended.) Sanger begins with Catherine de Medici, who brought the more elegant Italian cuisine to a French court stunned until then by such spectacles as ""animated pies"" (the birds fly out upon cutting) and huge, toppling ""pyramids"" of meats, sausages, and up to 100 birds. Thus the designation ""classic"" for the cuisine of the later (by 300 years), great Careme, that architect of elaborate confections designed chiefly to be seen. And thus Escoffier--whose peches melba is his best known but far from his grandest concoction--made culinary history by his personal application of the motto ""Faites Simple."" Sanger often leaves the chef to his kitchen while she takes in the culinary lore, decor, celebrated mots, and haute monde chatter of La Belle Epoque; she mentions Escoffier's marriage only in a footnote toward the end, though she chronicles in full his association with Cesar Ritz in Monte Carlo, London, Paris and (again) London. (""Wherever they go we shall follow,"" declared the Prince of Wales, then known as Turn-Turn; when his coronation party [as Edward VII] was cancelled due to illness, Ritz suffered a breakdown from which he never recovered.) And, fittingly, Escoffier's creations are described in tantalizing detail, often with the circumstances of their debuts. (Our favorite is les cuisse de nymphes a l'aurore: literally ""the thighs of nymphs at dawn,"" actually British society's introduction to frogs' legs.) A pique-nique, for the connoisseur.

Pub Date: June 4th, 1976
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux