French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating
By Laura Calder
Published by HarperCollins 2009, $39.95; hardcover, 309 pages

If you think really good French food should be left to five-star chefs and followers of Julia Child’s masterworks, you need to meet Laura Calder. The Food Network star has nailed it for anyone who wants to prepare tasty French dishes without the need to have either tons of time or several assistants to do all the prep work.

In fact, the subtitle sums up what I know about French food from my travels there. I ate mostly at home tables, and the food was prepared by ordinary French cooks, not chefs. All of it seemed simply prepared, and maybe it had to do with the French vibe around the table — the “passion for pleasure,” as Calder describes it, that infuses French life and sets its food apart as special — that made those meals so fabulous. Interestingly, most of those home-cooked French meals ended with sublime bakery-made desserts, not hard to understand since there’s a fabulous bakery there every 10 feet or so. Why kill yourself whipping up a gorgeous apricot tart or chocolate mousse cake when the bakery’s only minutes away? That seemed to be the general consensus. (more…)