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When French Women Cook: A Gastronomic Memoir

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Long lauded as one of the world'¬?s most revered culinary instructors, French-born Madeleine Kamman'¬?s career arose from remarkably humble beginnings in central France. As a young woman, Madeleine got her training by working in a family restaurant in Touraine and in the kitchens of France'¬?s most respected regional cooks, who nourished her appetite for the tradition, rig Long lauded as one of the world'¬?s most revered culinary instructors, French-born Madeleine Kamman'¬?s career arose from remarkably humble beginnings in central France. As a young woman, Madeleine got her training by working in a family restaurant in Touraine and in the kitchens of France'¬?s most respected regional cooks, who nourished her appetite for the tradition, rigor, and personal nature of cooking. Her exuberant and colorful memoir of that time-originally published over 25 years ago-tells of collecting mussels at the shore, churning butter from the milk of village cows, gathering mushrooms in nearby woods, and then transforming them into glorious food under the tutelage of her informal mentors. Over 250 recipes for the simple dishes she learned at their sides illustrate her evocative reminiscences of a bygone era in rural France. Part travelogue, part social history, part instruction manual, this classic is required reading for anyone who wants to know more about the life, times, and tastes of a woman who has helped shape American cooking.


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Long lauded as one of the world'¬?s most revered culinary instructors, French-born Madeleine Kamman'¬?s career arose from remarkably humble beginnings in central France. As a young woman, Madeleine got her training by working in a family restaurant in Touraine and in the kitchens of France'¬?s most respected regional cooks, who nourished her appetite for the tradition, rig Long lauded as one of the world'¬?s most revered culinary instructors, French-born Madeleine Kamman'¬?s career arose from remarkably humble beginnings in central France. As a young woman, Madeleine got her training by working in a family restaurant in Touraine and in the kitchens of France'¬?s most respected regional cooks, who nourished her appetite for the tradition, rigor, and personal nature of cooking. Her exuberant and colorful memoir of that time-originally published over 25 years ago-tells of collecting mussels at the shore, churning butter from the milk of village cows, gathering mushrooms in nearby woods, and then transforming them into glorious food under the tutelage of her informal mentors. Over 250 recipes for the simple dishes she learned at their sides illustrate her evocative reminiscences of a bygone era in rural France. Part travelogue, part social history, part instruction manual, this classic is required reading for anyone who wants to know more about the life, times, and tastes of a woman who has helped shape American cooking.

30 review for When French Women Cook: A Gastronomic Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mir

    I was not expecting controversy from this book. "Ooh," I thought, "a gastronomic memoir. Food, travel, color, some amusing autobiographical anecdotes..." Immediately, however, I found myself off balance. Kamman is clearly of another generation, another culture, another attitude towards feminism. Only a few pages in, I feel uncomfortably ambivalent about the scene she is setting. She opens: Where are you, my France, where women cooked, where stars in cooking did not go to men anxious for publicity I was not expecting controversy from this book. "Ooh," I thought, "a gastronomic memoir. Food, travel, color, some amusing autobiographical anecdotes..." Immediately, however, I found myself off balance. Kamman is clearly of another generation, another culture, another attitude towards feminism. Only a few pages in, I feel uncomfortably ambivalent about the scene she is setting. She opens: Where are you, my France, where women cooked, where stars in cooking did not go to men anxious for publicity but to women with worn hands stained by vegetables peeled, parched by work in the house I am to a degree sympathetic -- it is certainly true that public accolades for cooking have gone to male "chefs" while the work of female "cooks" is largely taken for granted. On the other hand, I don't feel a lot of nostalgia for the "worn hands" of pre-labor-saving women's work (Kamman's France is pre-1960) or the imprisonment of the domestic sphere. Not that Kamman thinks women shouldn't work outside the home -- just that they still ought to do all the cooking. Whether the women of the house worked outside of the home, or inside, there was a full meal on the table at noon and at night every day. My mother worked all her life and I fondly remember the lunches she put on the table during the ninety minutes that her lunch hour lasted. I'm sorry. I love to cook, and that still sounds like hell to me. Working full time and using every spare minute to prepare food? Not to mention the cleaning. Wait, actually that sounds just like my mother's life. She never complained, but I know she missed having free time, going out, seeing her friends. Maybe Kamman's mother didn't mind. If so, more power to her. I have no objection to whatever lifestyle individuals find fulfilling; what I dislike is Kamman's implication that this is what women ought to do. It reflects a narrowness that is, sadly, all too common. My favorite sections of this book were the little sketches of the women with whom Kamman cooked at various points in her life, and her relationships with them. Kamman also does a good job describing the food. So good, in fact, that I'm now pretty much confirmed in my earlier suspicion that I don't much care for classical French cuisine. It is too heavy, too fussy, too time-consuming for me. Why spend hours getting my demi glace just so, when really I'd be happier with a burrito?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    The recipes are wonderful, yes, but what I enjoyed most about this book was the way it was organized. Kamman groups the recipes by region and by the woman she learned them from; it's half cookbook, half memoir, and entirely beautiful. The recipes are wonderful, yes, but what I enjoyed most about this book was the way it was organized. Kamman groups the recipes by region and by the woman she learned them from; it's half cookbook, half memoir, and entirely beautiful.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brett

    Read this if you cook and your mother wasn't french. Read this if you cook and your mother wasn't french.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sam Mauro

    just the best.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laura Henderson

    A beautiful book full full vivid memories of France as it was before the 60's. You can almost smell the smoke from the old hearths, the garlic and the cheese. The memoir follows eight women who influenced Ms. Kamman and her love for food and cooking. The recipes range from simple - Bread soup with Cantal cheese to award winning complexity. The stories will pull you into the book and the recipes will inspire you. A beautiful book full full vivid memories of France as it was before the 60's. You can almost smell the smoke from the old hearths, the garlic and the cheese. The memoir follows eight women who influenced Ms. Kamman and her love for food and cooking. The recipes range from simple - Bread soup with Cantal cheese to award winning complexity. The stories will pull you into the book and the recipes will inspire you.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    Really enjoyed the chapters on each woman and her cooking style. The recipes I tried were all scrumptious!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Terry Gorman

    Contains the definitive recipe for roast chicken stuffed with morels with cream sauce.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Contains, among other things, a superb recipe for cream of dandelion soup. Handy if you're barge-ing through Burgundy, all the groceries have closed, and you need to feed a crew of 11 lunch. Contains, among other things, a superb recipe for cream of dandelion soup. Handy if you're barge-ing through Burgundy, all the groceries have closed, and you need to feed a crew of 11 lunch.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    What a delightful memoir! A must-read. And while we haven't made any of the recipes in Kamman's book, we have definitely followed the flavours of her recommendations for procedures and techniques. What a delightful memoir! A must-read. And while we haven't made any of the recipes in Kamman's book, we have definitely followed the flavours of her recommendations for procedures and techniques.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kirby

    Kamman was a chef’s chef. She wrote a memoir of her artistic mentors and inspirations. This isn’t really a cookbook (though there are recipes with admonitions, rather than instructions), not something that would likely be publishable today; too specific, too regional, too too) It’s some high level shit, aspirational. She inspired my chef and keeps buoying me up.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Dyson Eitelman

    Note for myself only: did not really read, but I'm writing this to remind my aging self not to buy this again. It's very slim on memoir and mostly just a French recipe book. I wasn't in the mood for it. Note for myself only: did not really read, but I'm writing this to remind my aging self not to buy this again. It's very slim on memoir and mostly just a French recipe book. I wasn't in the mood for it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amy Linn

    This is Madeleine Kamman’s tribute to the women cooks in her life, who consistently produced wholesome, yet delicious meals for their families every day, and who influenced her choice of career. I really enjoyed this memoir, looking forward to trying some of the recipes!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Peter Fazackerley

    lovely book interesting

  14. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Read it for the stories, would own it for the recipes.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Avis Black

    The memoir parts have some really outstanding prose. Delectable.

  16. 4 out of 5

    September Dee

    A nice memoir and some good recipes as well. If you'd like an insight into French cooking give this a try. Very readable! A nice memoir and some good recipes as well. If you'd like an insight into French cooking give this a try. Very readable!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Travel back in time with this wonderful memoir which will delight all your senses, and try the recipes: many contain unique techniques not found in your ordinary cookbooks…

  18. 4 out of 5

    CJ

    Recuedos of the author of 7 women she cooked with. Each is from a different area of France. The receipes are heavy on the meats. I look forward to trying a few of them over a cold weekend.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Gwen Maxwell MD

  20. 4 out of 5

    Colleen E

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kailey

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cass Walker

  23. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Shigemura

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bill OConnell

  25. 5 out of 5

    Creolecat

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gabriella

  27. 4 out of 5

    Melissalipman

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maurine

  29. 4 out of 5

    Diana

  30. 5 out of 5

    Erica

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