Magazine article Sunset

A Quick History of "Express Cookery"

Magazine article Sunset

A Quick History of "Express Cookery"

Article excerpt

By nature, I am a fast (and haphazard) cook, and only occasionally do I wish I were otherwise. That's usually after I'm disappointed by my first bite of a dish filled with expensive ingredients. Then, I feel stupid about my reckless ways with a recipe. Soon enough, though, I am back to my old habits, which is one reason I was drawn to a curious little book I found in a used-book store last year.

Unless you are a collector of old cookbooks and already know about Cooking in 10 Minutes, you might assume from the title that this is the latest effort by an American publisher to give home cooks what they want: good recipes that are fast and easy to make.

But Cooking in 10 Minutes is no such animal. It was first published in France, in French, in 1948. I don't know for sure, but I assume a certain amount of gastronomic indignation greeted author Edouard de Pomiane for defiling the country's slowcook-or-die reputation. No matter. French cooks bought 50,000 copies in the early years of the book's life.

De Pomiane had struck a chord with a kitchen philosophy of "express cookery" that was as irreverent as it was eloquent. And nearly 50 years later, you can still see the appeal, even if the ingredients might raise an American eyebrow or two:

"Do not imagine that ten-minute cooking is going to condemn you to an eternal round of beef-steak without any of the frills of finer cookery" is how de Pomiane opens a chapter on "extemporary sauces."

"Your gas stove has two burners, if not three. …

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