Cooking with Pomiane

I think it best Docteur de Pomiane introduce himself by way of a few quotes.

‘There are three kinds of guests: 1. those one is fond of. 2. those with whom one is obliged to mix. 3. those whom one detests. For these three very different occasions one would prepare, respectively, an excellent dinner, a banal meal, or nothing at all, since in the latter case one would buy something ready cooked.’

‘To prepare a dinner for a friend is to put into the cooking pot all one’s affection and good will, all one’s gaiety and zest, so that after three hours’ cooking a waft of happiness escapes from beneath the lid.’

Whimsical appeal aside, what value does a book written in the 1930s, by a Frenchman born in 1875, have for the modern working kitchen? For starters there’s the uncluttered scientific approach where Pomiane (a professional scientist, but an amateur cook) describes exactly what’s taking place at a molecular level. His disdain for tradition, coupled with a scientific desire to eliminate the extraneous, results in brief, lucid recipes, which cover exactly what you need to do and no more. The magisterial section on sauces tells you everything you need to know in five and a half pages: your roux will be perfect and your Hollandaise will never curdle again.

The style is terse, and not without a certain amount of Gallic élan. This is not to say he has no sympathy for the cook. Take the recipe for bouef à la ficelle: ‘at this point you may feel a little depressed.’ I may even dare this recipe myself, although I feel I might offend cultural sensibilities if I ever followed his exact instructions for Poulet Tamara, which requires the presence of Georgian emigrés.

‘For a successful dinner there should never be more than eight at table. One should prepare only one good dish [the emphasis is his]. This should be preceded and followed by some little thing, then cheese and a sweet course if you are in France, or pudding and cheese if you are in England.’

There you go. One good dish, and off to the deli for the rest. How reassuring.

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