Francoise Branget, "French Country Cooking: Authentic Recipes from Every Region" (Arcade Publishing, 2012)


"How do you govern a country that produces 365 kinds of cheese?" What puzzled Charles de Gaulle inspired Francoise Branget, the author of French Country Cooking: Authentic Recipes from Every Region (Arcade Publishing, 2012).She too is a politician, yet she managed to achieve consensus among a group better known for dissent. She asked 180 of her fellow deputies in the French General Assembly to provide a traditional recipe from their region. (Don't be surprised if one of them is now the prime minister of France.) What emerges through the most cunning means is a portrait of "deep France" (la France profonde). No matter how many French cookbooks you have read, this book is the food of a France you do not know. It is the France of past generations and poorer times, when one ate only what one grew or raised. Yet the limited ingredients, combined with ingenuity of country women feeding their families, produced remarkable flavors. This is the genius upon which all French cuisine rests. The book contains the common (18 different recipes using potatoes), the delectable (salmon steamed over cabbage, duck pot-au-feu, Breton apple cake) and the adventurous (roasted pig's head). Nothing is out of bounds. Our interview is with the book's English translator, Jeannette Seaver, herself the author of four cookbooks. A Parisian who is the publisher of Arcade Publishing, she received France's highest citizen award, the Legion of Honor, in 2012 for her services to French culture. And culture is what this book conveys, through its unique format of haunting photography, a map on each page, and evocative introductions from contributors ("made by my grandmother," "enjoyed since early childhood at Sunday dinners"). These are the recipes that shape the life of the table in France.

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