JACKI LYDEN, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.
Coming up, veteran pop singer Andy Williams - my lifelong crush. But, first, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the kitchen after a summer of French cooking, out comes a five-pound tome on the whole darn subject. It's called "I Know How to Cook."
Clotilde Dusoulier, a young Parisian who writes her own food blog, helped translate the book into English. We want to warn you, if you're thinking about Thanksgiving recipes, some of these are not for the squeamish. Clotilde, welcome to the program.
Ms. CLOTILDE DUSOULIER (Writer): Thank you for having me.
LYDEN: Would you please tell us about this rather astonishing book? We weighed it - it's actually five pounds, five ounces. And I said, gosh, that's more than I weighed when I was born.
Ms. DUSOULIER: That's a great point of reference. So, it's a book that was first published in France in 1932 and it was written by a then-young home economics teacher named Ginette Mathiot. And it was a book that was meant to accompany the young bride throughout her cooking life.
LYDEN: Clotilde, you know, of course, this summer was the movie "Julie and Julia," and it turned Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" into a national bestseller. How would you compare "Je Sais Cuisiner," which translates to I Know How to Cook, with "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," Julia Child's book?
Ms. DUSOULIER: The major difference is in the approach. Ginette Mathiot was a home economics teacher, so she was teaching home cooking to home cooks, whereas Julia Child was taught at Le Cordon Bleu, which taught her the professional approach. And she was really trying to translate professional-style recipes for the home cook. So, she did simplify things a little bit but the resulting recipes remain the chef's way of doing things.
LYDEN: We thought we'd take a look at the two books and then compare a recipe for ratatouille, the eggplant dish. Both of them have about the same number of ingredients. Child had parsley, but your cookbook uses less than 50 words for the directions and she uses about 320.
Ms. DUSOULIER: I think that's a good summary of the difference between the two. I think that Ginette Mathiot's book, you look at the recipe and you feel like you can do this because the instructions are simple. And the Julia Child way of doing thing is a lot more precise and detailed. So, I think they both have their strong points.
LYDEN: When I think of French cooking, I confess, that I think often of things like cassolette or sommonier(ph) or musa chocolat(ph) and you've got some things in here that I think might surprise people. Fifteen recipes with aspic, 14 for liver, 11 for rabbit, ten for kidneys, six each for tripe and tongue, five for heart and sweetbreads, three each for eel, sheep's feet and brain and one for woodcock.
Ms. DUSOULIER: I should note that these are all figures out of 1,400 recipes. But it is very much a book that's meant to use as a reference book for the cook. So, in the event that you find sweetbreads or hearts, Ginette Mathiot's book is probably the only one on your shelf that will give you some indication of what to do with it.
LYDEN: Well, it sounds like a book that is a classic and that people did eat those things at that time. And I'm sure in some parts of France still enjoy these delicacies very much. I mean, you've included it. Are people still eating this in France?
Ms. DUSOULIER: They are. I think it's very much a matter of opportunity. I mean, a French person living in Paris is not going to find game, but they might have the opportunity to stay at a friend's place in the countryside and some guy in the village will have hunted and said, would you like one of those birds? And, you know, you're not going to turn that down. So, you would pull out the Ginette Mathiot and any type of ingredient that you would want to work with, she will have guidance to offer.
LYDEN: There are directions here for cleaning a rabbit and it's very simple. It says place a rabbit on its back, make a cut from top to bottom, separate the back legs by inserting the knife at the bottom of the saddle, remove the intestines. And I was thinking: Would a French home cook understand those directions?
Ms. DUSOULIER: I think a French home cook would probably buy the rabbit from the butcher's already cleaned. I think a book that had been published in 1932 is bound to have a few antics, things that are charming in that they remind one of earlier times when you would actually empty your own rabbit. Whether that's charming to you or not, I'll let you decide. But I just find that it's a good reminder of how people used to cook from a historical point of view.
LYDEN: You've got some very lovely recipes on your blog: chocolate and zucchini. Are any of them from this book?
Ms. DUSOULIER: I have not published any recipes from the book on chocolate and zucchini, but I have been cooking from the book. I actually hosted a dinner party for my friends last weekend that was all cooked from the book. So, that was fun.
LYDEN: Would you share the menu with us?
Ms. DUSOULIER: I started with gougere, which are the cheese puffs. And then there was rolled lamb shoulder called lamb shoulder provencale. And it's a very easy dish. And I find the rolling and to tie (unintelligible) string just a fun step. It kind of makes you feel like you're a real cook. And so I served this with mashed potatoes and roasted tomatoes. And as a dessert we had the light chocolate mousse. It's a chocolate mousse that's only made with egg whites - no cream, no butter, no egg yolks. But
LYDEN: Practically a diet dish.
Ms. DUSOULIER: Exactly.
LYDEN: Just in time for Thanksgiving. Clotilde Dusoulier, it's been a real pleasure talking to you and you've made our mouths water thinking about "I Know How to Cook."
Ms. DUSOULIER: Thank you very much for having me.
LYDEN: Clotilde Dusoulier is a Parisian blogger who's translated the French cookbook "Je Sais Cuisiner." And you can find the recipes on our Web site NPR.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
First published in France in 1932, Ginette Mathiot's Je Sais Cuisiner, or I Know How to Cook, presents 1,400 recipes written with the novice cook in mind.
Oui, Oui! French Cooking Made Easy
First published in France in 1932, Ginette Mathiot's Je Sais Cuisiner, or I Know How to Cook, presented 1,900 recipes written with the novice cook in mind.
Food blogger Clotilde Dusoulier, who recently helped translate 1,400 of the recipes for the English version of the book, tells Jacki Lyden that Mathiot's book differs from that other French cookbook — Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking — in its dedication to simplicity.
While Child was writing from the point of view of a chef who had been educated at the Cordon Bleu, Mathiot, a young home economics teacher, was writing a book meant to accompany a young bride throughout her married life.
"The major difference is in the approach," says Dusoulier. "[Mathiot] was teaching French cooking to home cooks."
Comparing Mathoit's recipe for ratatouille with that of Child seems to support the point; though the recipes feature nearly identical ingredient lists, Mathoit presents hers in 50 words, while Child uses 320 words for hers.
"You feel like you can do this because the instructions are simple," says Dusoulier. (Check out Mathiot's recipes for Gougere and Choux Pastry, Shoulder of Lamb Provencale and Light Chocolate Mousse.)
Perhaps less simple — or at least, more archaic — are Mathoit's instructions for cleaning and removing the intestines from a rabbit. Though Dusoulier admits that most modern French cooks would buy the rabbit already cleaned from the butcher, she says the book presents a good reminder of how people used to cook from a historical point of view.