Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Getting Schooled

Every once in a while, each of us succumbs to our own personal desires. To be the Mack Daddy. To be the pimp. To be the hustler. To be the gourmand.

I've spent the last couple of years reading, reviewing and testing recipes from the tomes of Thomas Keller (The French Laundry Cookbook, Bouchon), Anthony Bourdain (The Les Halles Cookbook) and have successfully completed a number of their recipes, as well as lots of meals on my own, cooked with chef friends and brief stints at institutional size cooking. My delusion doesn't include my knifework (which is atrociously poor) or a depth of knowledge equal to Keller. Just a decent ability to cook just about anything.

To keep myself growing, I've been buying books to read and help expand my knowledge base. After waiting several weeks, the bible of the cooking world finally arrived today: Escoffier's Le Guide de Culinaire in the English translation by Cracknell and Kaufmann. It's what I've been waiting for. The herald to a new level of culinary excellence and understanding. I was excited to pour through the book and get cracking.

I got schooled.

If you're like me, nothing prepares you for this book. Escoffier presumes the reader has a certain level of understanding and experience in order to tackle the thousands of recipes he has to offer. This is serious. This is old school. Things like Poulard Parame, Ecrevisses a la Bordelaise and Merlans en Lorgnette au Gratin. Jesus, I don't know if I'm up for this but I'm gonna try.

Reading The Guide is like swimming - without a firm grasp of swimmings' fundamentals. I'll give it a go but I'll probably end up flailing about and producing results like my first attempt at Pancit Bihon in 1988 (not a pretty picture and a story for another day).

Looks like I'm going swimming tonight...

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