Olney’s Simple French Food; Recipe Links 4-23-09


“Even vegetarians expend most of their ingenuity trying to destroy the vegetableness of the poor fresh things, welding them into horrible imitations of meat dishes in pathetic compensation for self-imposed deprivation.”
— Richard Olney on cooking vegetables, Simple French Food

Do you find that the longer it takes you to read a book, the harder it becomes to pick it up and start?  Some of you might have noticed that I’ve been referencing Richard Olney a lot recently. The truth is I’ve had his book Simple French Food for almost 15 years, collecting dust on my bookshelves all this time. I picked it up right after college when I decided to learn to cook, out of a sense of associated loyalty. Olney and my father (an editor) worked together on the Time Life Good Cook series, but I was very young at the time and did not meet him.  So novice-me bought the book and was intimidated right off the bat.  I scurried back to the familiarity and ease of my Julia Child, and kept this one on the shelves.

Fast forward to a month ago, when I picked it up in earnest. What a change! All of a sudden, it wasn’t scary anymore.  Quite the contrary, to the older, more experienced me, this book is brilliant, accessible and often funny.  A book like this does not go out of style.  I read it basically cover to cover, and was quite inspired.  I like that Olney often explains his reasoning and purpose behind a decision, rather than just dumping out some ingredients and assembly instructions. Verdict: an oldie but very goodie.

P.S. Another book of Olney’s that I love, and which has not collected so much unjustified dust, is Lulu’s Provençal Table.

It has been way too long since I posted some recipe links, though my list has been stacking up. Here are a few from the pile that inspired me:

10 thoughts on “Olney’s Simple French Food; Recipe Links 4-23-09”

  1. I agree with you Giff.
    After you posted 2 recipes from Olney’s Simple French Food book, I picked mine up again, and was more inclined to make some of his recipes. and how cool that your dad knew him. I have had the book for about 10 years.

    I feel that way about Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques. I finally read thru the entire book and now I want to make everthing (even though her recipes take an entire day!).

    I made my recipe for ratatouille this week (you may like it), and the carnivore ate it and enjoyed it over rice. I was shocked.
    I also bookmarked Ilva’s Ricotta w/ pears and figs………I am on a fig kick!

  2. Thanks for the tip on Richard Olney’s book. Unfortunately our library doesn’t carry that one, but I’ve put another one on hold. How fun to have some insider info about editing such a foodie from your father!

  3. Yes, i totally agree with your first statement. Really good article and thanks for recommending the book.

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