Beck, Simone, Louisette Bertholle & Julia Child (Sidonie Coryn & Paul Child, illus.)
- Mastering the Art of French Cooking & Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two
Borzoi Books/Alfred A. Knopf Inc., New York NY, 1963 & 1979.
Fifth and fourteenth printings: Two volumes. Volume 1: royal octavo; hardcover, full decorated cloth with upper board titles; 732pp., top edges dyed red, with many monochrome illustrations. Moderate wear; shaken; spine extremities softened; some marks to the text block edges; previous owner's ink inscription to the flyleaf. Dustwrapper well-rubbed and edgeworn; sunned along the spine panel; chipping to the spine panel extremities and flap-turns; some small holes to the upper hinge; now backed by archival-quality white paper and professionally protected by superior non-adhesive polypropylene film. Very good. Volume 2: royal octavo; hardcover, decorative papered boards with upper board title; 555pp., with many monochrome illustrations. Moderate wear; boards rubbed; spine panel sunned and spine head pulled; text block edges spotted with some marks; offset to the endpapers. Dustwrapper well rubbed and edgeworn with some spotting; sunning to the spine panel; chipping to the spine panel extremities and flap-turns; now professionally protected by superior non-adhesive polypropylene film with white paper backing. Very good. In the early 1950s, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, French cooking teachers who had trained at Le Cordon Bleu, sought to capitalize on the American market for French cookbooks and wrote and published a small recipe book for American audiences. By the late 1950s, Beck and Bertholle were interested in writing a comprehensive guide to French cuisine that would appeal to serious middle-class American home cooks. Beck and Bertholle wanted an English-speaking partner to help give them insight into American culture, translate their work into English, and bring it to American publishers, so they invited their friend Julia Child, who had also studied at Le Cordon Bleu, to collaborate with them. The resulting cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, proved groundbreaking and has since become a standard guide for the culinary community. While Beck, Bertholle, and Child wanted all of the recipes to be as authentic as possible, they were willing to adapt to American palates and cooking techniques. Child had noted early in the process that Americans would be 'scared off' by too many expensive ingredients, like black truffles, and would expect broccoli, not particularly popular in France, to be served with many meals, and adjustments were made to accommodate these tastes. American home cooks at the time were also more inclined to use appliances like garlic presses and mixers than French cooks, and so Child insisted that supplemental instructions for cooks using these appliances be included in the book alongside the normal instructions. Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1 was originally published in 1961 after some early difficulties. Beck, Bertholle, and Child initially signed a contract with publisher Houghton Mifflin, but Houghton Mifflin grew uninterested in the project. Child recalled one editor telling her, 'Americans don't want an encyclopedia, they want to cook something quick, with a mix.' Beck, Bertholle, and Child refused to make requested changes to the manuscript, and Houghton Mifflin abandoned the project, writing that the book, as it stood, would be 'too formidable to the American housewife.' Judith Jones of Alfred A. Knopf became interested in the manuscript after it had been rejected. Jones felt that the manuscript would offer a lifeline to middle-class women, like her, who were interested in learning how to cook French cuisine in America, and predicted that Mastering the Art of French Cooking, 'will do for French cooking here in America what Rombauer's The Joy of Cooking did for standard American cooking.' While Jones was enthusiastic about the book, Knopf had low expectations and invested very little into promoting it. In order to generate interest in the book, and without support from Knopf, Child appeared on several morning talk shows in 1961 to demonstrate recipes, which she later cited as the impetus for her own cooking show, The French Chef. Despite being a relatively expensive cookbook, retailing for $10 in 1965, Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1 did well commercially, selling over 100,000 copies in less than five years. According to Julia Child biographer Noel Riley Fitch, the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking instantaneously changed the entire American cookbook industry, leading more cookbook publishers to place emphasis on clarity and precision, and away from the 'chatty and sometimes sketchy' style that had typified American cookbooks. On its release in 1970, Volume 2 was also well-received. Critics praised the book's comprehensiveness, but some felt that it was far too ambitious for the average home cook. Nancy Ross of the Washington Post Times Herald argued that many of the recipes in Volume 2 would be far too time consuming, difficult, and expensive for the American home cook, pointing out that the recipe for French bread provided in the book was nineteen pages long, took seven hours to complete, and required the use of 'a brick and a sheet of asbestos cement.' Critical perception of Mastering the Art of French Cooking has generally remained positive. In 2015, The Daily Telegraph ranked it as the second greatest cookbook of all time, behind Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail Eating. In a 2012 New York Times piece commemorating Julia Child's 100th birthday, Julia Moskin wrote that Mastering the Art of French Cooking should be credited with 'turning the tide' on American food culture 1961, when 'trends including feminism, food technology and fast food seemed ready to wipe out home cooking.' Moskin added that, 'in its fundamental qualities, the book and its many successors in the Child canon aren't dated at all. Their recipes remain perfectly written and rock-solid reliable.'
Click here to order