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Oui, Oui! French Cooking Made Easy


First published in France in 1932, Ginette Mathiot's Je Sais Cuisiner, or I Know How to Cook, presented 1,900 recipes written with the novice cook in mind.

Food blogger Clotilde Dusoulier, who recently helped translate 1,400 of the recipes for the English version of the book, tells Jacki Lyden that Mathiot's book differs from that other French cookbook — Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking — in its dedication to simplicity.

While Child was writing from the point of view of a chef who had been educated at the Cordon Bleu, Mathiot, a young home economics teacher, was writing a book meant to accompany a young bride throughout her married life.

"The major difference is in the approach," says Dusoulier. "[Mathiot] was teaching French cooking to home cooks."

Comparing Mathoit's recipe for ratatouille with that of Child seems to support the point; though the recipes feature nearly identical ingredient lists, Mathoit presents hers in 50 words, while Child uses 320 words for hers.

"You feel like you can do this because the instructions are simple," says Dusoulier. (Check out Mathiot's recipes for Gougere and Choux Pastry, Shoulder of Lamb Provencale and Light Chocolate Mousse.)

Perhaps less simple — or at least, more archaic — are Mathoit's instructions for cleaning and removing the intestines from a rabbit. Though Dusoulier admits that most modern French cooks would buy the rabbit already cleaned from the butcher, she says the book presents a good reminder of how people used to cook from a historical point of view.

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