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French Food At Home by Laura Calder
Reviewed by food writer Lari Robling

It started with an innocent French fry, moved through the legislature until the people were crying "off with the cork" and dumping vintage grape in the streets. But it runs both ways, and on the other continent they are boycotting our stalwart symbol of capitalism, Coca-Cola. No matter how your politics run, you gotta admit given the choice of dumping out a bottle of Chateau Lafitte Rothschild or a can of coke guess who got the better deal in that diplomatic imbroglio? Well, in vino veritas.

So, all the French controversy may make you want to be a closet Francophile. With Laura Calder's cookbook, French Food at Home, you can have Marie Antoinette's cake and eat it, too. Dine on Herb Gourgeres Cheese Puffs, Mon Petit Chou Stuffed Cabbages, or Langoustines in Sea Cream --all in the non-committal privacy of your own home. If you wish to even the score, you can always serve California wine.

Laura Calder is the Paris correspondent for Vogue Entertaining and her narrative is as sumptuous as her recipes. About her Camembert Salmon she writes, "this is no mental lapse; just because it is strange to the ear doesn't mean it will be to the tongue." And I love her description for the Bacon Cod dish, "good looks, simple flavors with white fillets belted with a cummerbund of bacon and pinned with lemon, bay and thyme."

The recipes duel with the misconception that French cuisine is difficult or complicated. These are, after all, dishes prepared in French homes, not five star restaurants. For recipes with an inverse proportion of taste to work try Beer Bird, a chicken baked with garlic, juniper berries and double malt-- or her sauted pork chops with just enough kick from a deglazing of coffee that brings out the carmelization. But there is plenty of room for the unusual, too, as shown by her air-cured duck breast that is similar to prosciutto.

My regret is that there is not one photograph of food. Even the cover sports a napkin and forks, nary a morsel sight. Other than that, Laura Calder's French Food at Home is nearly a perfect cookbook. Easy to follow recipes, uncomplicated straight-forward but delicous food and a good read, too.

The men in my household also inform me that Laura's author photo is as luscious as her passion fruit souffle. Now, isn't that another reason to keep the bitter taste of politics out of our food?

Reading and eating, I'm Lari Robling

 

©2005 WHYY