It's not often that I gasp when I open a cookbook, but I did just that upon opening French Country Cooking: Meals and Moments from a Village in the Vineyards. Whether you like to cook or not, this book by Mimi Thorisson reads more like a novel than a cookbook. Part recipe book, part family chronicle, part a detailed commentary on life in France, this book is a stunner. Mimi Thorisson chronicles her journey of buying a century house and bringing it back to life in delicious form. As if engaging text and mouth-watering recipes aren't enough, the photography, by husband Oddur, is outstanding. It, alone, could be a study on how to learn food photography.
Handsome and gracious hosts, the Thorissons take you inside their home to share their lives in this superior tome that you are not only going to want to cook from, but also keep close at hand to page through and savor. Once your friends catch a glimpse of it, they'll want to get their own copy to similarly enjoy.
The recipes are a tad past the beginner stage, but not so much as to make this a book for experienced cooks only. While not all recipes are hundred percent doable for the American cook (I have no idea, for example, where I would be able to find some black-footed pig chops), this made absolutely no difference to my enjoyment of the cookbook. There is the rare cookbook indeed in which I am able to use every recipe, and this one is no different. It is, however, beautiful, inspiring, full of new recipes, and sprinkled with French phrases throughout that just add to the charm. The Ham Croque-Madame is both delicious and doable, as is the Ham and Spring Onion Omelette, Kale and Sausage Pasta (I subbed spinach), and the over-the-top delicious Wise Guy Chicken.
The recipe portion of the book is divided into sections: Starters, Main Courses, Sunday Suppers with the Family (I loved this section.), Staff Meals, Side Dishes, and Desserts. As I mentioned before a lot of these recipes are geared toward more experienced cooks, however I honestly think there is something in this book for everyone.
While some of the recipes may look daunting, it's largely because the measurements are given in both ounces and grams, and instructions are detailed and concise. Read through each one and I believe you will find all of these recipes are quite doable. One example of this is the recipe for Mashed Potatoes with Fennel. This is easy and delicious, and would make an excellent addition to your Thanksgiving table. Why not mix things up this year if you're hosting an American Thanksgiving celebration and add a French dish or two.
If you treat yourself to a special book now and again, this should be the one, it also makes a perfect gift.
Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.