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The French Menu Cookbook Paperback – 31 Jan 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Collins (31 Jan. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007511450
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007511457
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 214,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Authors

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Product Description


The perfect prose is as beautiful as the menus.
-Rachel Cooke in The Observer Food Monthly

Immaculate instruction. Glorious prose. Recipes for serious kitchen folk. My most cherished cookery book.
-Simon Hopkinson

[Olney] was a true genius in the kitchen, and his writing was as sensual and precise as his handling of ingredients. Let trumpets sound to mark the timely resurrections of this, one of his best-loved books.
-Alan Davidson, author of The Oxford Companion to Food

‘Comes wreathed in compliments from people such as Simon Hopkinson, Alan Davidson and Prue Leith … reading it is almost enough in itself; for perfection, give it to someone clever enough to cook it all for you.’ – Telegraph Magazine

‘Meticulous in its advice, the seasonal menus and recipes are superb. Food writing as good as this is rare indeed.’ The Western Mail, No. 8 of the 30 best cookbooks of all time

Henry Harris of Racine told FT Magazine that Richard Olney “writes so beautifully, you can lose yourself in his glorious prose.”

The book was selected by The Week as one of the best cookbooks of 2010 – “this cookbook is the perfect introduction to (Richard Olney’s) ‘passionate and idiosyncratic’ approach to French cooking.”

The Sunday Tribune (Eire) has called it a “seductive read for any Francophile, even better for one who can cook.”

About the Author

Richard Olney was one of a kind - a scholarly cook who had a tremendous influence on modern cooking via his cottage on a hillside in Provence. Born and raised in Iowa, America he was drawn to France as a young man. Olney moved to a Parisian suburb in 1951 before settling in a run-down property in Provence where he wrote eight cookbooks and consulted on the Time-Life Good Cook series. Olney passed away at his Provencal home in 1999.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A.M.Hamilton on 29 May 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Considering the content it is very expensive. A good book and would be a great reference book for cooking, but not at that price.
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By Diana Lampe on 13 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Raymond L. Sadler on 10 Nov. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Richard Olney may be a great inspiration and I envy him his superb grasp of Provencal cuisine, but for those of us not living there, and with other things to do apart from cook, it really is not of great day-to-day use in the kitchen.

For reference only!
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0 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Clo on 14 Dec. 2010
Format: Hardcover
A great book! This book was ordered from fast_media_us in the States (I'm in the UK). They kept me informed of dispatch times and the book arrived between the estimated dates. In the condition stated. Good to do business across the Atlantic, especially for a classic!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
62 of 65 people found the following review helpful
Possibly the most sophisticated cookbook in English 12 Aug. 2006
By J. V. Lewis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Looking back to 1970, the year this book was first published, puts its sophistications in context and underscores the enormity of its contributions. America was deep in culinary ignorance, eating out of cans and supplementing that metal-tinged blandness with gut-busting mountains of artificial 'foods'. America was lost somehwere between the post-war meat-and-potatoes era and the chemical concoctions of the 80s and beyond. Small glimmers of possibility illuminated the occassional suburban cocktail party, when hostesses under the influence of Julia Child trotted out a few hotel-food hors d'oeuvres, and a few ethnic enclaves still held up a candle of flavor, but America was largely a culinary wasteland. Servings were large, everything was bland, and mealtime had become TV time. Without flavor or family, American meals were effectively dead.

It was into this lunar food landscape that Richard Olney introduced several revolutionary ideas at once in The French Menu Cookbook. I should say that he RE-introduced these ideas, because they had existed, with varying degrees of sophistication, for as long as people had eaten, but an industrial food system had interrupted that great cultural memory. This book's structure is its message: the food is introduced not by category, but by course within menus, and the menus themselves are organized by season. For those of us who have heard the gospel of seasonality and regional availability and freshness from Alice Waters and Paul Bertolli, at al, it can be easy to forget that this idea is still, 36 years after The French Menu Cookbook, radical, and so against the grain of the industrial food complex as to be almost an act of treason. But Richard Olney's way with food started that revolution at possibly the most inoportune moment in Americna history.

A sample menu says it all:

An Informal Spring Dinner

Hors d'oeuvre of Crudites

Shrimp Quiche

Coq au Vin

Steamed Potatoes

Wild Green Salad


Flamri with Raspberry Sauce

all of the above matched with appropriate wines.

Notice the careful development through the courses, the constant shifts of flavor to keep the palate alive, the seasonal ingredients... All of this was deeply shocking at the time.

But there's one more big surprise: this book is every bit as good today as it was in 1970. It doesn't feel even remotely dated, like Julia Child's books do. Maybe, in hueing so faithfully to the principles of freshness, seasonality, and regional availability, Olney tapped into something timeless. And so this book was a classic the day it was published, and remains one of the most sophisticated, satisfying, and inspiring cookbooks ever published.

Very highly recommended.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Before there was "Simple French Food"... 11 April 2010
By Chambolle - Published on Amazon.com
Others here have written lengthy and lyrical paeans to this book, so I will try to be brief. It is a masterful book, no doubt about it. Originally published in 1970, "The French Menu Cookbook" reflects a level of sophistication -- and of authentic French sensibility -- that could not be found anywhere else, "Mastering the Art" included, back in the day. Many of the seasonal menus are precisely what one would have at a family gathering or a good solid bistro "over there" -- take, for example, one of the "informal spring dinners":

Filets de Sardines Crues en Marinade
Grillade de Boeuf, Marchand de Vin
Gratin de Pommes de Terre
Salade des Champs
Tarte aux Pommes

And of course there are the formal menus, with foie gras, truffles, lobster, pheasant and sauteed cepes.

All along the way, there is Olney's elegant prose. The essay on wine that spans perhaps thirty pages is the most readable, comprehensive and succinct review of basic principles of wine making and service, and of the key French varietals and appellations, I believe I have ever seen. A lot of knowledge and instinct is distilled in these few pages.

This book, which preceded "Simple French Food" by a few years, is more the traditional "cookbook" with reasonably detailed recipes, unlike the Olney masterwork "Simple" that followed it. I still think "Simple French Food" is his crowning achievement, because as my review of "Simple" indicates, it is a book of general principles and a guide to improvisation, not a "recipe book" at all. If you spend a lot of time with "Simple," you will learn to make your own recipes and compose your own menus because it encourages you to riff in the kitchen, to work on your own chops.

But with "Menu," you have a very detailed roadmap -- start to finish menus, recipes and pitch-perfect wine suggestions for each course. It's all good. But to me, by distilling it all down to first principles in "Simple French Food," Olney really climbed the mountain. Perhaps my preference for "Simple" is just because it was the book I came to first -- I bought "Simple" in 1977, used it over and over and over again, and bought my first (and still my only) copy of "Menu" when the revised hardcover edition from David R. Godine came out in 1985.

Whichever of the two books you may regard more highly, both of them belong on every serious food and wine lover's bookshelf.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This book needs more reviews! 11 Jan. 2010
By Lucy Adams - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Richard Olney is one of the main voices for French cuisine in the English-speaking world, and yet this book also goes beyond the basics of French cooking and reintroduces to the American public concepts of eating by season and constructing menus based on each dish's impact on the palette, contrasting and matching flavors and textures. In fact, the chapters at the beginning in which Olney simply introduces these ideas, giving helpful tips that can be applied to cooking of any kind, not just French, are worth the price of the book alone. Read the small chapter on menu composition and you can just picture it hammered to the kitchen wall of every fine dining establishment today.

However, the main point of this book is clearly to teach French cuisine, and this book is full of information on that topic as well. The book feels much more like a culinary journal or memoir at times than a cookbook, and you could, as I sometimes do, just read the book as it is without trying to pick out something to make for dinner. Although Olney stylistically toes the line in his prose and dictation in coming across as lofty and reprimanding, there somehow remains just enough dry humor and flexibility that the reader never feels berated.

The recipes themselves aren't always straightforward or simple, although practically every curious ingredient is explained for the reader in great detail. Olney is one of the surprisingly few French cookbook authors who considers the price and availability of several ingredients such as Perigord truffles and even foie gras, and would probably have done so with veal had this book been written after veal was made somewhat of a taboo in this country. I've practically cooked through this book by now (although, I've never actually prepared a suggested menu all in one sitting) and Olney walks very thoroughly through the more complicated recipes, while simultaneously taking simple recipes up a notch, giving the reader something new to try.

Don't be put off by the dated look and feel of the book, the content has aged quite well and the information, ahead of its time then, is still completely relevant to today's home cook. And better, this is a cookbook you can actually read, and become incredibly well-versed in French cuisine by the time you've finished. This is the printed product of a lifelong devotion to the food and wine of France, and I hope it is not forgotten.
14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
For the More Daring Cook/Eater 23 April 2010
By Nik - Published on Amazon.com
The other reviewers were so kind to list the appealing recipes, those that Americans would enjoy, to make the book, well, appealing. The author does a great job in describing technique and history of the dishes he has put together. He takes you step by step throught the menus very knowlegable and eloquently. This book was written by someone who loved French cooking and food.

I, on the other hand, am new to French cooking and cooking in general. I thought that by purchasing this book, on the reccomendation of the reviewers that I would not be getting an easy book, but one with recipes that I can share at a very formal dinner party, in America. And a book that was not Julia Childs, i'm sure hers are fabulous. I like challenge, but having not been brought up on certain foods, I do not think that I would have purchased it if I would have seen it first. NOTE: Bookstores are still very valuable and necessary.

In this book there are many, if not most, recipes containing the innards of, well, you know. There is liver, tripe, pigs tails and ears, kidneys and most unappealing Brains. This is most European. A few recipes I think would have sufficed, but alas, unless I can substitute these choices for more of an American palate, I do not think I will be using this book much, if at all.
How America learned to cook- two books that tell the story 30 Nov. 2013
By Jonathan loop - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a cookbook and a history lesson all in one, if you get this book also buy Provence 1970, it all comes together.
Alice waters used this book in her early years and olney said she really got it.
The combo is a beautiful story of American chefs taking on French cooking and creating the American dishes
That have been the basis of cooking in America including all the improvisation that has lead to today's
Great chefs and restaurants and cooking schools.
Headline - how America learned to cook - requires both books - puts you on the track for more great reading
And eating
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