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OP: Simca's Cuisine

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by Simone Beck
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Simone “Simca” Beck (1904–1991) is perhaps best known as one of the French co-authors on Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume I (1961) and Volume II (1970). No stranger to cookbook writing, Beck published her first book What’s Cooking in France? in 1952, though to minimal fanfare. Publishers insisted that Americans were not interested in French cuisine. A decade later, however, that no longer seemed to be the case.

Beck and Child met in 1949 and, along with fellow co-author, Louisette Bertholle, formed l’Ecole des Trois Gourmandes to give lessons in French cooking to American women in Paris. This enterprise laid the groundwork for the collaboration that would launch Julia Child’s career. 

Perhaps reinvigorated by Child’s success, Beck tried again to bring French cuisine to a mass audience straight from the source, publishing Simca’s Cuisine in 1972. 

The dishes—predominantly from Normandy, Alsace, and Provence—are not for total beginners but for those now ready to invest serious effort in embracing a French way of life. Take, for example, the menu for “an earthy dinner for high-spirited friends” in which you will enjoy scallops baked and served in their shells (or in ramekins if you must), simply flavored with butter and shallots; follow this with a cassoulet of duck and sausages and a side of cold asparagus, dressed with a gribiche-like sauce; and end the meal with le Talleyrand—cherries in custard with flambéed meringue.

Each dish name is presented in both English and French, the French taking top billing, bien sûr, along with suggested wine pairings. Headnotes and conseils offer some context, technical advice, and insight into the life of the Frenchwoman who never quite made it out of Julia Child’s shadow, though you get the sense that Simca would rather just present the dishes without commentary, as they surely speak for themselves.

We are very pleased to offer a 1986 ninth printing of a book that we think deserved (and deserves) more attention. Our copy is Fine in all aspects except that the jacket is clipped. A valuable addition to any serious French collection.

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