For those who adore the French kitchen (not the fancy stuff, but the typical dishes that are cooked by real French families), the book, Recettes Pour Bien Vivre, is a delight to behold. There's absolutely no haute cuisine to be found here. Just hearty French classics that call for plenty of butter and generous dollops of full-fat cream. Yum! Now that's something you have to love!
The story behind the book is filled with the kind of French nostalgia that makes my Francophile heart skip a beat. An old, abandoned French house was sold and some of the objects left behind were bought by antique collectors. One of them happened to be a culinary journal dating back to around 1870. The recipes in this stunning journal were recorded in beautiful handwriting and its pages were decorated with elegantly penned illustrations. Who the author is, remains a mystery. We do know, however, that he dedicated his recipes to a certain Marie Potié. As luck would have it, the journal made its way to the Netherlands where Dutch chef Manfred Meeuwig decided to translate it and give it a second life.
Meeuwig did a marvelous job at bringing the work back to life along with the help of stylist Marjolijn Vonk and photographer Sigurd Kranendonk. The result is a trip back to a time when life was good and waistlines didn't matter. Leafing through Recettes Pour Bien Vivre makes one yearn to visit the French countryside and stop along the way to eat things like a chunky terrine de campagne served with cornichons and thin rounds of bread. Forget the grand cru this time. These are the types of meals that demand to be washed down with a simple vin de table.The book is divided into cold and warm starters, mains with fish and meat, sides and desserts. Highlights include classics like rillettes de porc, oeufs en meurette, bouillabaisse, quenelles de brochet, boeuf bourguignon, pomme dauphines, crème brûlée, tarte au citron and mousse au chocolat. Because the recipes sometimes lack precise explanations (for example, there is no oven temperature for the gâteau au chocolat), the book is probably not aimed at beginners. But, what it lacks in preciseness, it makes up in pure, unadulterated joie de vivre. This is what the real French kitchen is all about!
Here is one of the many recipes I made. A fabulous tarte aux poires!
Recetttes Pour Bien Vivre, Franse Klassiekers Voor Nu, (Manfred Meeuwig, Marjolijn Vonk and Sigurd Kranendonk). Published in the Netherlands by Terra in December 2010.