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Book News

'Julia and Jacques, Cooking at Home'
by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin

Knopf, $40

Review by Randy Harber

(CNN) -- "Julia and Jacques, Cooking at Home," with 150 recipes and 328 color photos, accompanies the 22-episode television series now running on Public Television stations. The show and the book are set up as a gentle sparring match between these two old friends, both masters at explaining the ways of cooking French cuisine to American audiences.

The battles between Jacques and Julia are not battles at all. The real enemies here are those who fear fat and, in the view of these two chefs, are ruining the taste of many American foods. Grumbling about her attempts to get a good pan fried steak, Julia complains, "I have been forced to an unhappy conclusion: much of what is sold these days is just second-class beef." But no problem, she and Jacques show the reader how to use less popular, cheaper, and better tasting cuts of meat braised as roasts or cooked into stews.

For Jacques, food is about sharing and he urges readers to consider an idea expressed by Voltaire. "try to imagine how tiresome eating and drinking would be if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity," he says. "So, share our recipes with friends and family. If you do, I am sure you will enjoy them in a deeper way."

This book wasn’t written in the usual way -- with carefully planned recipes done in advance. A topic was picked, ingredients were assembled, and the two chefs then went into Julia’s kitchen and cooked.

Writer David Nussbaum has done an admirable job of turning their creations into easily followed recipes. These are accompanied by photos artfully taken Christopher Hirsheimer, an editor and photographer from Saveur magazine.

Another popular 1999 cookbook was "The Bread Bible." Beth Hensperger culled hundreds of her time-tested recipes, both classic and intriguingly original, to come up with 300 favorites. The book -- published by Chronicle Books and illustrated by Harry Bates -- covers everything from simple basic white breads to dense and tasty whole-grain breads, plus breads made with herbs, cheeses and nuts. Other recipes cover dinner rolls, biscuits, muffins, coffeecakes, waffles, popovers, pancakes, crepes, pizza, calzone, focaccia, tortillas, fry breads and pita.


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