The Cookbooks on Their Shelves: The First English-Language French Cookbooks in the United States, or, Who was Sulpice Barué?

Much has been made of Thomas Jefferson’s influence on the “Frenchification” of cuisine in the young United States and in American diplomatic circles. Just take a look at “The French Touch,” a chapter in Even Jones’s American Food: The Gastronomic Story (1990) or Karen Hess’s “Thomas Jefferson’s Table: Evidence and Influences,” in Dining at Monticello…

The Fish of France: Weever (Trachinus draco Linnaeus )

A bouillabaisse fish, the weever is. Mentioned in William Verral’s A Complete System of Cookery (1759) as “weaver,” the weever fish’s spines emit poison. According to Clifford Wright, a restaurateur in Marseille likely invented bouillabaisse, an expensive version of fish stew and not really the traditional fisherman’s fish boil.  So much for romantic nostalgia and visions of…

Will Verral’s Masterpiece of 1759: A Complete System of Cookery

The English could never catch a break in the kitchen. Why, as early as 1759, in A Complete System of Cookery, an innkeeper/author named Will Verral sniffed at the ragtag equipment that passed for a batterie de cuisine in even upper-class English households. Stir in the English and French antagonisms brought about by long enmity, and…

The Duke of Newcastle’s Pique, or, A Good Chef is Hard to Find

The diarist Samuel Pepys,  no mean observer of human foibles that relieve the monotony of day-to-day human life, recorded — almost in real-time —  the Francophilic transformation of the English nobility after the 1660 Restoration of the Stuart monarchy. Since Pepys devoted a portion of his library to cookery, it’s not surprising that his diary…

French Chefs Abroad: Alexis Soyer and His Irish Famine Soup Kitchen

It is to be regretted that men of science do not interest themselves more than they do on a subject of such vast magnitude as this; for I feel confident that the food of a country might be increased at least one-third, if the culinary science was properly developed, instead of its being slighted as…

Monkfish: A Little Love, French-Style

I first gazed on his ugly mug in French-influenced Morocco, more precisely at the fish market in Rabat. And like Beauty with the Beast, I fell in love. Sea devil. Crapaud. Baudroie. Lotte. Goosefish. Anglerfish. Poor Man’s Lobster. … It seems his name is Legion (Nomen mihi Legio est, quia multi sumus) … . Monkfish (Lophius…