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A Way with Les Conserves

On a trip to Paris a while back, I stopped in a bookshop on a quest for cookbooks. There were many fine volumes, but one in particular stood out as a must-have.

Les Conserves

Les Conserves is a glossy, photo-packed soft-cover (Produced by a French division of Reader's Digest! Why don't they make such lovely books for English readers?) is ideal for a French neophyte like me. Just look at this recipe for grape preserves.

Confiture de Raisins/Grape Preserves

You can see for yourself that the recipes in Les Conserves are supporting players to the photography. An interested cook can look over these images and gain insights on preparation, presentation and usage information in just a few seconds before deciding whether to invest a number of minutes processing the written details.

As much as I love words (I do make my living from them), I wonder if more cookbooks shouldn't handle instructions visually.

There's already been so much said about how we eat with our eyes, but the great majority of serious cookbooks contain little more than a centerfold of finished dishes in limited-utility glamour shots (if they contain photographs at all).

The cookbooks that do contain lots of photography and illustration seem to aim more at the coffee-table book audience than the folks who really want to learn to cook. So where, I ask, are the genre of serious instructional cookbooks that embrace the visual presentation of the useful as well as the lovely?

Well, perhaps they're in France. Perhaps they're made by Reader's Digest.

Have a look at the way the ingredients for the Grape Preserves are laid out for prospective cooks here. It's as if they really do want to instruct and inspire.

Ingredients

For those who read even less French than I, I'll offer a translation of the recipe in question:
Grape Preserves -Confiture de Raisins (Makes 1.25 liters/5.3 cups)

1 kg (2 lb) green or red grapes, plucked
2 lemons, cut in halves and sliced thin
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup pecans, lightly toasted
1/2 cup cognac brandy

1. Put the grapes, lemons and sugar in a saucepan. Mix well, cover and let sit for a few hours to let the fruit macerate.
2. Bring to a boil, then cook on medium heat 1 hour to 1 hour, 30 minutes, stirring frequently so that the bottom does not stick.
3. It is unnecessary to test the degree of gelatin for this jam; it is ready when a wooden spoon pulled over the surface leaves a wake.
4. Remove the pot from heat and let the jam stand for a few minutes before putting it in jars (this prevents the fruit from falling to the bottom). Add, in turn, pecans and cognac. Ladle the mixture into sterilized hot jars, then seal with lids.
Cookbook rant done, and I hope you've enjoyed these peeks into Les Conserves.

I'm going to spend the rest of the week focusing on preserves of one type or another. Thrift and handmade charm seem to make them an appropriate topic for this year.

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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3.29.2009

FoodLink Roundup: 03.31.08

Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was dining at the Minnesota State Fair. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Think you know? Post it in the comments.

What Was Lost
A long-lost French grape is rediscovered 150 years later in a far-away land under an assumed name. Danger! Intrigue! (via WineHazard.com)

Italy roiled by a cheese scare
Not the cheese, Gromit!

Diet pill’s icky side effects keep users honest
So it's come to this...

TeaMap: Tea Room Directory
Looking for tea while you roam? Look no further!

Skipping Breakfast and Packing on Pounds
More research news that really should come as no surprise: brekkie is the most important meal of the day.

Ten Tastiest Food Photography Tips
This piece presents really silly copy, but the tips are good advice whether you're a full-on food blogger or just a food fanatic.

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3.31.2008

Food Quote Friday: E B White

black grapes

"We should all do what in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry."

E B White from The Letters of E B White

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3.28.2008