As a devoted foodie, I have read much of and by Julia Child including My Life in France, Noel Riley Fitch's Appetite for Life; The Biography of Julia Child , and of course Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I.  I can appreciate Child's enormous impact on American cooking.  She paved the way for the many cookbook authors and TV personalities that have come since.  She was truly a pioneer in cookbook writing and television.  However, (you knew that was coming), I find Mastering the Art of French Cooking tedious, inflexible and, dare I say it, boring.  I love to cook, but I haven't felt inspired to cook a single recipe from that cookbook.  When I read her recipes I try to remember that Child was writing for an audience that she assumed knew very little about cooking.  Her recipes are fool-proof, well-tested and explicit.  However, SIX pages for "French Baked Beans" (a.k.a. Cassoulet)?  This "nourishing country fare" includes "roast loin of pork, shoulder of lamb braised in wine, homemade sausage cakes, and beans cooked with pork rind".  And let's not forget to add the suggested goose confit or fresh duck, turkey or partridge.  Seriously, has anyone besides Julia Child ever made this? 
James Garza
1/28/2010 10:03:14 am

I've made caussoulet! I've been trying to recreate this one I had once with surprising delicate-crunchy bits. Sigh...

In Julia's defense, her goal was to faithfully capture and convey cooking processes already established by the French, not reinvent them. I know there are a few notable exceptions.

The Cook's Illustrated folks did come up with a way to bypass much of the caussoulet tedium and still produce a rather convincing facsimile. Some might say "improved".


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