Thursday, 30 July 2015


“Moderation. Small helpings. Sample a little bit of everything. These are the secrets of happiness and good health.” Julia Child

I read a delightful little cookbook the other day. It is a 1960s reprint of Edouard de Pomiane’s book “Cooking in Ten Minutes”, first published in France in 1948 and translated into English by Peggie Benton. The author subtitles his work “Or, The Adaptation to the Rhythm of our Time”, which goes to show that the idea of fast food is not as recent as we would like to think. However, reading this highly amusing little book, one gets the idea that Monsieur Pomiane gives us recipes for good old fashioned slow food, prepared quickly, rather than the “fast food” that we seem to think of when we hear the term. For example, here is one of M. Pomiane’s 10-minute menus for a dinner:
Lobsters à l’ Americaine
Tournedos Rossini
Asparagus vinaigrette
Cheese and fruit

The book is delicious to read and the author’s style is humorous (though never flippant), his advice often delivered ex-cathedra (but always sensible) and his recipes adventurous (but always following the “prepared in 10 minutes” rule). The book is illustrated with lovely little sketches reminiscent of Toulouse Lautrec and is full of essential, basic information that one should know but never had the temerity to ask about!

I’ll give you samples of this book, beginning with what the author has to say about it:

 “I am neither a fool nor a micromaniac (which is the opposite to a megalomaniac and means a man with a passion for exiguity. This word, by the way, is not to be found in the dictionary). And yet the day my book “Cooking in Six Lessons” appeared I was called frivolous. I was criticised for teaching the art of cooking in six lessons when everyone knows it takes ten years to become a cook. I replied to this criticism in a preface showing the part that science can play in the rhythm and measure of teaching any art, including cookery. I tried to show that I had a feeling for speed and that I didn't simply disregard the question of time.
Now I maintain that one can prepare a meal in ten minutes, and as this is an incredibly short time I shall be treated as a micromaniac.”

M. Pomiane has advice regarding hors d’ oeuvres:
“Do not rush into complicated hors d’ oeuvres. You have not the right, nor the time. In any case they only attenuate the voluptuousness of your hunger for the principal dish, so use them with parsimony. If you have a passion for hors d’ oeuvres, have the courage of your convictions and make a whole meal of these gastronomic frivolities.

This will reduce your cooking to the infinitely simple, that is to say, to the preparation of coffee. Bring home some mortadella or salami, some tunny fish, some olives, mushroom salad and three slices of smoked ham. Add some butter, a slice of Roquefort cheese, some fruit, and you will be happy. But be careful. Do not repeat this dînette often. It would damage your health. And in any case you will soon get tired of it.

You can, however, perfectly well begin your meal with one of the delicacies mentioned. Do not make an egg dish on that day. You will eat your tunny fish or your two sardines while the pork chop which will afterwards appear with chestnut puree is turning a crisp golden brown.”

And finally his recipe for scrambled eggs (which I think are one of the most difficult things to cook properly!).

You will need two eggs. It is difficult to scramble a solitary egg as it sets too quickly.
Break two eggs into a bowl. Beat them with a fork. Salt.
Melt and heat a large walnut of butter in a frying pan. Pour in the eggs and as soon as they begin to stick to the bottom of the pan break them loose with the back of the fork, stir them, worry them, torment them, mix them, beat them, so that all the lumps are broken up. Stir them on a gentle fire. When the eggs begin to thicken draw them off the fire. Stir. They continue to set, As soon as the eggs are ready, that is to say still creamy, pour them on to a slightly warmed plate. Eat immediately.

You can add all sorts of things to scrambled eggs as variations before you begin to cook them:
Cervelat cut in cubes.
Minced ham.
Tinned green peas.
Shelled shrimps.
Boiled mussels.
Croutons of bread fried in butter.
Mushrooms fresh from the frying pan.
and so on.

But remember that you must only add very small quantities. Eggs with green peas must not become green peas with eggs.

One must receive, above all, the impression of creamy eggs cooked to a turn. The flavour of the addition must be of secondary importance. Besides, scrambled eggs with green peas are a delightful spectacle, while green peas with eggs are a depressing sight.

I must say that I love the type of advice given in this cookbook: “Sauerkraut: Buy some of it already prepared as you will never have the time to do it yourself. If you go to a good shop it will be far better than any you could prepare anyway!” That’s my kind of cooking!

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