Back to Escoffier with his famous quote
Keep it simple.
Keeping it simple means allowing food to taste of itself, using seasonal produce, following the rhythms of the seasons, finding a natural balance. Getting to the essence of a dish .
Elizabeth David also cites Escoffier and says “2 of the most valuable words he ever wrote were faites simple”.
According to Elizabeth David this means
“the avoidance of all unneccesary complications and elaborations”.
Another famous French gastronome and writer, Curnonsky, repated again and again that good cooking was achieved when “ingredients taste of what they are”
Elizabeth David suggests taking a complicated recipe with many ingredients and steps and simplifying it to it’s barest essentials. If you find it is better in it’s simple form then you know the recipe was” too fanciful”.Or if it seems lacking in flavour, start building it up again. This takes some confidence and self assurance but it’s a pretty good idea.By the end of all this you will have discovered the essentials of the dish.
Both Elizabeth David and M.F.K. Fisher were boarders in middle class homes as young women in the 1930’s. Elizabeth in Paris as a 16 year old and Mary Francis in Dijon as a newly wed.In their writings they talk of the virtues of La Cuisine Bourgeoise. Nourishing, user friendly, and by today’s standards ecological. Being a very thrifty cooking. Nothing is thrown away, stocks are made from bones and carcasses, marinades are flavoured with fruit peelings.
Madame Ollangnier, the pension owner in M.F.K. Fishers book, was famous in Dijon for having a wonderful table. She was a precurser of todays foraging cooks, scavenging from all the shops and markets.
It’s all about cooking not inventing.
I have included a very typical menu., with recipes from Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson and Anne Villian, those wonderful English scholarly women who love French food and cooking.
And for fun click here to see what Jacques Brel thinks about Les Bourgeois.
Oeuf en meurette ( poached egg,bacon, shallots, red wine sauce, croutons).
Daube de Boeuf Provençale (beef stew with peppers, tomatoes and orange scented sauce).
Poire au vin rouge, glace cannelle. (pears poached in red wine, cinnamon ice cream).
Recipes next time.
Cover photo of Monet’s table, other photos my own.