Tuesday, August 25, 2009

After 48 Years, Julia Child Has a Big Best Seller, Butter and All
By STEPHANIE CLIFFORD writing in The New York Times, August 23, 2009

Almost 48 years after it was first published, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child is finally topping the best-seller list, bringing with it all the butter, salt and goose fat that home chefs had largely abandoned in the age of Lipitor.

Julia Child, in 1970 at her television cooking studio. The amount of fat in her recipes surprises some of today’s home cooks.

The book, given a huge lift from the recently released movie “Julie & Julia,” sold 22,000 copies in the most recent week tracked, according to Nielsen BookScan, which follows book sales. That is more copies than were sold in any full year since the book’s appearance, according to Alfred A. Knopf, which published it.
The book will make its debut at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list of Aug. 30 in the advice and how-to category.
In a month, I’ve sold almost seven times what I sell, typically, in a year of ‘Mastering,’ and it’s going to get even higher,” said Lee Stern, the cookbook buyer for Barnes & Noble. “It’s amazing.”
Amazing not just because the book is almost half a century old, costs $40 and contains 752 pages of labor-intensive and time-consuming recipes — the art of French cooking is indeed hard to master — but also for what those recipes contain.

In a decade when cookbooks promise 20-minute dinners that are light on calories, Ms. Child’s recipes feature instructions like “thin out with more spoonfuls of cream” (Veau Prince Orloff, or veal with onions and mushrooms, pages 355-7) or “sauté the bacon in the butter for several minutes” (Navets à la Champenoise, or turnip casserole, pages 488-9). And for a generation raised to believe that Jell-O should have marshmallows in it, there is plenty of aspic — the kind made with meat.
Readers who only recently opened the book, and have been blogging and tweeting about it, have found some anachronistic surprises.
“I’m looking at these ingredients going, Oh, sweet Lord, we’ll die,” said Melissah Bruce-Weiner, 45, a resident of Lakeland, Fla., who bought the book on her way home from seeing the movie. Horrified by the prospect of cooking with pork fat, she tried her own variation of boeuf bourguignon, which she called “beef fauxguignon.”
“I know why all of the greatest generation has died of heart attacks,” she said. “I actually did a can of cream of mushroom soup, and a can of French onion soup, and a can of red wine — it was the same can — I filled it with the bottle that I had been drinking the night before.
“Yes, Julia Child rolled over in her grave when I opened the cream of mushroom soup, I’m pretty sure of that. But you know what? That’s our world.”
Read the full story at NYT online.

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