Lessons in Eating Well From Simca's Cuisine Still Resound 40 Years Later

All illustrations from Simca's Cuisine
Spirited Friends are the only kind we like to dine with

Publishers love to send us cookbooks here at Fork in the Road, and often those books come straight from the chefs at some of New York's best restaurants. So we decided to share the love, and each week, we'll feature a new book, a recipe, and a few thoughts on cooking from the authors. Check back every Tuesday for a new book.

By Simone 'Simca' Beck, 326 pages, Borzoi Books/Alfred A. Knopf (1972/First Edition)

In 1961, Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle published Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Child's seminal work and the authoritative tome on its subject. The authors released a second volume in 1970. A year later, Beck published her own book sharing her own personal body of work, built on family recipes from Normandy, Alsace, and Provence and her own creations developed from the time of her youth through her decades cooking with American chefs like Child.

Beck's book is geared to entertaining and looks at dining as a whole experience. Most of the recipes (helpfully indexed by ingredient at the back of the book) are incorporated into menus for every affair -- picnics and lunches, dinners and buffets -- and in structuring it this way, Beck teaches us how eating well depends on so many things: the season, location, affair, company. Every chef I know who cooks French cuisine carries this book on their shelf.

A "spectacular dinner" with champagne calls for salmon or striped bass in brioche, jellied rolled roast of veal, assorted cheeses, whole lettuce salad with vinaigrette, and Bavarian cream with pears and raspberry sauce...With Brut champagne throughout. But see how she balances the meal -- a light, fluffy first course; a heavier main; palate-clearing cheeses (heavy) and salad (light); and a bright dessert of both fruit and cream. On lesser nights, she lets season dictate the menu, offering, perhaps, a "spring dinner from Touraine" with pureed asparagus soup and fresh strawberries or a meal for "after a winter walk in the woods" with oxtails, hearty Provencal stew, and, Beck writes, since "nothing could leave more of a glow on a cold day than [a] banana souffle with warm apricot sauce," that.

On the next page, four easy lessons for better dining, every day.

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