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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh my, had this and the French ed for like, 5 minutes, and already a bad translation mistake!, 20 Oct. 2011
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This review is from: I Know How To Cook (Hardcover)
I ordered this and the current edition of the French version 'Je sais cuisiner' on the same day not long ago. Due to couriers' vagaries I received the English version first and it is very impressive: huge, heavy, crammed with yummy French home cooking classics and with not too many illustrations to reduce the space for recipes. The book is organised into a reasonably familiar order: Basic Recipes; Hors d'oevre, Milk Eggs & Cheese, Soups, fish, meat, poultry, game, veg and so on. There are hints and tips on presentation, dinner parties and so forth; also a short section of recipes by celeb chefs including at least one Brit, which is nice!
So what did I do? I turned immediately to the one French dish which is my particular bugbear: so superficially simple, yet so hard to get right, ie. Ratatouille Provencale. I followed the recipe in this book to the letter - and had to remove the cover from the dish and boil it much harder than suggested, in order to remove the excessive, sloppy amount of liquid. OK, the result was still delicious, but I did end up wondering what I had done wrong.
Then I received the French version, and it was immediately obvious! While the recipe in the English version of the book tells you to add 500 ml of water to the pot along with the veg, seasoning and oil, the French original gives the quantity of water as '1 verre'. That is, one glass. Oh my those crazy French people must use big glasses, then! However, on investigating, the French edition also gives a precise measurement translation of this quantity, at the front of the book amongst the forewords and kitchen hints; '1 verre' = 10cl. Yes, that's right; 10 centilitres, aka 100 ml. ONE FIFTH of the volume the English edition suggests.
No wonder my ratatouille turned out kind of sloppy!
Oh, and a further comparison of the two volumes also reveals other really irritating features. The French version numbers each recipe ('formule') making it very easy to refer from one to the other; if your recipe includes an ingredient which has cooking instructions elsewhere (eg. meringue, roux blond, etc etc) it simply refers to the required 'formule'; in the English edition it's all done by page number. I find this far less user friendly. Also, the French version is differently arranged, with an entire section on French regional cooking and another on 'recettes etrangeres' (forgive the lack of accents, can't do them in this window). While it is gratifying to note that the UK has the second longest entry in the latter section (second only to Italy! And yes, there is a marmalade recipe in there, please feel free to mention this to any French person who twits you about the English love of marmalade!) it is still slightly annoying that the translators / editors chose to rearrange and in some cases expunge altogether recipes in this section, presumably in order to make the book (in their view) more GB (and America?)-friendly. The recipes from the French Regional section have simply been moved to their main ingredient sections; for instance the Ratatouille recipe I referred to above is in the Vegetables section in the English edition, whilst in 'Je sais cuisiner' it is in the Regional section. I found this rearrangement a tad patronizing.
OK, it is nice to have a version (I hesitate to call it a 'translation' since that implies an attempt to be faithful to the original) of this book in English; but for future ventures into the world of French home cooking I strongly suspect I'll be sticking to the French original. Goodness knows what other mistakes are lurking in here if they can quintuple the quantity of fluid required in such a basic recipe as ratatouille.
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