"First of all, let me tell you that this is a beautiful book. I can say that because this is its first page. I just sat down to write it, and I feel happy, the way I feel whenever I start a new project."
Opening paragraph from French Cooking in Ten MinutesJoie de vivre. That's what the French call it. And that's what the Polish call it, too, if you were Edouard Pomian Pozerski, which is what Edouard de Pomiane was originally called when he was born in Paris in 1875. A medical doctor by training, and a research scientist by occupation, Pomiane embraced cooking as both science and art. Before there was a Heston Blumenthal or a Ferran Adrià with their avant-garde and esoteric techniques, there was Pomiane, avant-garde for his time in his scientific determination to understand the esoterics of French traditional cuisine. In demystifying cooking into a enthusiastic pleasure to be enjoyed by all, he became a popular culinary expert and lecturer whose books are still in print today. Though many of his recipes would be considered quaint or out-of-date by today's furious trends and technology, the durability of his practical instruction infused with a writing style of a beloved, mentoring, charming uncle will keep him in print for generations to come.
Pomiane is the food writer I return to when I want to laugh, expand my heart, and be reminded to embrace daily life, preferably as cook and hostess. In Cooking with Pomiane, he instructs in the finely detailed hierarchy of your guests:
"First of all, there are three kinds of guests: 1. Those one is fond of. 2. Those with whom one is obliged to mix. 3. Those whom one detests.Guests are also drolly apprised of their own machinations when accepting a dinner invitation:
For these three very different occasions one would prepare, respectively, an excellent dinner, a banal meal, or nothing at all, since in the latter case one would buy something ready cooked."
"First of all, don't expect too much. In this way you will not be disappointed at the end of the meal - a thing which is very harmful to the digestion. The day before the party, assess your host at his true value. Calculate, and I am afraid this is a little cynical, just what you are likely to get."Pomiane is as much a raconteur, perpetually bemused by human nature, ready with the anecdote, as he is a sensible tutor who neither lectures nor condescends. His French Cooking in Ten Minutes is a no nonsense approach to the standard repertoire of the good French home cook. Filled with over a hundred recipes, many no longer than a paragraph, this 1930 publication is a wealth of good will, good humor, good taste, and great reading. No wonder he was happy.
This post is for Sra of When My Soup Came Alive, hosting The Write Taste, an event featuring food writing. Though it wasn't a requirement, I did include a recipe. After all, it only took me ten minutes.
Eggs "Sur le Plat" - Adapted from French Cooking in Ten Minutes by Edouard de Pomiane. Scientist that he was, Pomiane nonetheless was fond of using measuring terms such as "a little" and "some." I have taken the liberty to add some numbers that work. The shallot, chives, and pepper are my additions.
3 teaspoons butter, divided into 2 teaspoons and 1 teaspoon
1/2 large shallot, peeled, sliced
5 blades of fresh chives
In an oven-proof gratin dish that has also been approved for stovetop use*, heat 2 teaspoons butter until melted over the lowest heat source. Carefully crack two eggs and tip them into the dish. (They will arrange themselves.) Maintain lowest heat. In meantime, in a small skillet, fry shallot briefly in 1 teaspoon butter. Remove from heat. Check on the eggs, continuing to cook until the whites are just set and opaque, repositioning the dish a few times for even heat distribution. (This is especially necessary if the dish is long.) Top with fried shallot and chives, then scatter with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, using pot holders to transfer dish to the table. Serves 1.
*If cooking on an electric stove, you must use a heat diffuser as a buffer between the heating surface and the dish. Alternatively, a small metal skillet very generously coated in butter or oil can be used; you can either lift the eggs out with a wide turner or serve in the skillet.