Around the same time I started cooking, I started reading. Some of my earliest reading memories are actually about cooking – from Amelia Bedelia’s baking adventures, the walruses’ feast of oysters in Wonderland, to my mother’s dusty cookbook shelf. Now, if there is any thing I do more than eat and cook, it is read – read cookbooks that is!
I read cookbooks like novels – the author is the main character, the recipe introductions are the settings, the instructions the plot, and the serving suggestions the epilogues. Very rarely do I actually cook the recipes – instead, I gather techniques and inspirations that I then translate into my own kitchen, with respect to my equipment, ingredients, budget, and skill.
My first stop in any bookstore is the culinary section, where I can spend hours leafing through the beautiful photos and tantalizing recipes. I have even been known to sit and copy recipes from some of my favorite cookbooks (my dirty little secret). Obviously, when I heard there was a bookstore in Paris focusing only on cookbooks and food literature, I went as soon as possible. I could have spent hours in le Librairie Gourmande – and with the comfy browsing couch on the second floor I was quite tempted to.
The shop seems quite small from the outside (I almost walked right past it), but go inside and you will find an ample selection covering two floors – and I mean covering, shelves stretch from floor to ceiling, and stacks of books lie waiting for you to trip over them. It was surprisingly well organized into specialized sections – wine, regional food, bio/health, desserts, chocolates, spices, techniques, food literature, anthropology, even a “used” section. Something for every taste and budget.
This trip was an exercise in self-control – I wanted to pick up every book (a no-no in most French shops, although they seemed very relaxed about browsing). Every book I picked up, I wanted to buy. And every recipe I saw, I wanted to cook! Amazingly, I managed to escape with only one purchase – Le Guide Fooding 2012 – a restaurant guide to Paris and France.
Browsing at Le Librairie Gourmande has been added to my list of favorite Parisian activities. If you ever get a chance to visit Paris, make sure to check it out (and leave extra room in your suitcase to carry all your books home). Until then, I will leave you with the following selection of my favorite French cookbooks.
1. Julia Child Mastering the Art of French Cooking – A French culinary history
2. Jacques Pepin Complete Techniques – There is your way, and then there is the Pepin way
3. Jacques Pepin and Julia Child Julia & Jacques’ Cooking at Home – Two masters for the price of one, plus recipes suited for home cooking
4. Dorie Greenspan Around My French Table – Recipes for everyday French
5. Alice Waters Art of Simple Food – Recipes with a French base focusing on whole, natural cooking
6. David Lebovitz – The Sweet Life in Paris – You will be immediately transported to Paris
Alexis ZK studies French and Food Studies at New York University. She loves travel, dinner parties, digging in the dirt, ballroom dancing, foodie adventures and creating tasting menus in the shower. She recently ran away to Paris on a mission to discover France through food.