The Hands On French Cookbook: Connect With French Through Simple, Healthy Cooking
Elisabeth de Châtillon
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HALL WAYS REVIEW: The Hands On French Cookbook is magnifique! Author Elisabeth de Châtillon's background in education is clear as she takes her readers through the mechanics of how they can learn French while cooking the simple but delicious recipes. While some might be inclined to skip those intro pages of text to get to preparing those dishes (all presented in beautiful full-color photos), I don't recommend it. Châtillon thoroughly explains her methodology to make for easy recipe reading and throws in some fun French phrases, too. And merci beaucoup to the author for providing conversions from the metric system because cooking is enough of a challenge for many of us without adding math to it.
Once we get into the recipes, I learned a lot, not just about preparation techniques or expanding my French vocabulary but also my English vocabulary. I had no idea what spelt flour was, but Châtillon not only explained it, she also adds a Remplace (replace) section to each recipe with ideas for substitutions. Each recipe is thoroughly explained so there is no question as to how long each will take, start to finish, or what utensils and ingredients will be needed. And readers are sure to have learned the basic commands after just a few recipes since the they are listed, defined, and learned through performing them.
Other handy features are chef's ideas for ways to change-up the recipes and the recommended ideal season for preparing each recipe so cooks can optimize in-season ingredients. (For example, one might ditch le saumon (salmon) in favor of always in-season le chocolat if one decided to also ditch the healthy aspect. But one might be smart to instead just skip to les desserts if the sweet tooth is calling, especially because Châtillon encourages us to lèche la spatule [lick the spatula] when making chocolate mousse.)
As an admitted Francophile, I enjoyed every single element of the book: the author's French style, reading the text in French (and then checking the translation), the simple-to-prepare French recipes (miam miam!), the additional cultural tidbits about where ingredients and dishes come from, and the beautiful photographs and fun illustrations. I devoured this cookbook, mais hélas, I didn't consume a calorie -- yet. I intend to take it with me on an upcoming trip to my Francophile daughter's house, and we're going to practice our French while cooking together.