Wednesday 20 March 2019

Doing Without Delia: Tales of Triumph and Disaster in a French Kitchen / Sacré Cordon Bleu, Michael Booth

When Michael Booth decides it’s time he learns to cook without the guidance of his favourite celebrity chefs he doesn’t take the decision lightly. Starting with a bonfire of the cookbooks he has accumulated over the years he moves his family to Paris and enrolls in Le Cordon Bleu in what he describes as ‘as noble a way of jeopardizing the security and well-being of my family as I could think of.’ Despite commenting on how not child-friendly Paris is the family seem to settle in and other than piling on a few pounds from all the rich food he brings home they don’t seem to suffer too much for the upheaval.

Despite the prestige and eye-wateringly expensive tuition fees Le Cordon Bleu is somewhat run down and offers fairly rudimentary equipment. Their tutors however, eccentric as they are, have such depth of knowledge that the experience proves to be absolutely worth it. Despite a disastrous first practical in which he slices his hand open, Booth flourishes. He doesn’t agree with all that is taught – the use of pre-grated cheese constantly niggles at him and turning vegetables never seems necessary. However, he does learn to cook without the need for recipes and in reading this book you’ll pick up tricks and tips that you likely didn’t know before.

There are recipes littered throughout, none of which I have yet tried – French cooking is not known for being vegetarian friendly, but I am intrigued by the idea of a chocolate risotto. There are some gruesome descriptions of having to decapitate live crabs and lobsters, for which he feels bad, but the taste of the final dish seems to negate any guilt he may have felt.

This is a humorous account of the author’s journey through French cooking, the camaraderie and competition with his fellow students, and at its heart a love of good food. A treat of a read for foodies and Francophiles alike.

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