Books: Cooking by Cuisine -> Cooking French
Anne Willan: From My Chateau Kitchen
CLAY, LANGDON (Photographer)
Published: March 14, 2000
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From My Château Kitchen revolves around three subjects: the author's life in the 17th-century Burgundian château she and her husband own; the work of the farmers, vintners, restaurateurs, and others who live in the area and define its
spirit; and Burgundian food, the glorious regional plats that represent a time-honored yet ever-evolving cuisine. Anne Willan, founder and president of La Varenne cooking school (now headquartered at the château), skillfully weaves these strands into a
romantic but down-to-earth memoir. With more than 300 color photos and 160 adroitly selected recipes, the book offers both armchair excitement and practical kitchen direction. Those drawn to French regional cooking and the life that anchors it will
embrace the book.
In chapters such as "The Adventure Begins," "On Burgundian Tables," and "The Wider Scene," Willan comes, sees, and is conquered--repeatedly. Best of all are her shrewdly drawn human portraits. We meet, among others, the château
gardener who picks vegetables only at maximum size, a blacksmith who guards his homemade ratafia in a cathedral cellar, and a father-son pair who operate a traveling cider press. Willan's recipes--all meticulously written--accompany the discussions.
Traditional Beef Bourguignon (a definitive formula), Warm Wild Mushroom Mousse, Madame Milbert's Rabbit Terrine, and Apple Gâteau Le Fey are just some of the dishes that illustrate a time, place, or person. Closing with a chapter that presents the
château wedding of Willan's daughter (and includes the wedding cake recipe), the book comes full circle; it returns readers to a beginning and reminds them that food, which is the life of the Burgundian land, is without break, beginning or end. --Arthur
The kitchen of the title is in a 17th-century chateau called Le Fey, high on a hill in Burgundy. From this vantage point, Anne Willan -- long known as an authority on French regional cuisine, on food history, and on
classic French cooking -- has written a personal book, elegantly interweaving chapters on her life in the chateau with journeys out into the surrounding landscape. She examines the work of the people of Chateau du Fey and its surrounding quarters: the
gardeners, farmers, vintners, and restaurateurs who live and breathe French cuisine, and who contribute to the character and flavors of the Burgundian table.
Foremost in the cast of characters in Anne Willan From My Chateau Kitchen is M. Milbert,
gardien and gardener, who will pick no vegetable before its time. But there is also Claude the water man, who looks after pipes and plumbing for both village and chateau, and who figures prominently in the group of local hunters who follow the age-old
rules of la chasse. We are introduced to M. Simon, the blacksmith with a network of cellars under a nearby cathedral, where he makes ratafia. And M. Haumonte teaches traditional bread and croissant making using the chateau's wood-fired oven. There is the
lady from Morvan who makes 500 varieties of jam, the beekeeper, and the father and son with the traveling cider press. Anne Willan takes us through the countryside, to markets in Sens, to the makers of mustard and spice bread in Dijon, to
Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, where Leslie Caron presides over an establishment serving Burgundian fare, and to Joigny, where Lorain father and son reign in 3-star splendor.
Anne has chosen to share recipes for the dishes she cooks and eats at home,
including such classics as Leek Quiche, Oeufs en Meurette, and Jambon Chablisien. There are also recipes that cope with the garden's staggering bounty, such as Spiced Red Currant Jelly and Gratin of Summer Vegetables in Herb Pesto. Other recipes are
brought by the chefs who cook at the La Varenne school -- including Snail and Mushroom Ravioli with Parsley Sauce and Dried Fig and Marc Ice Cream.
In almost 300 color photographs and with more than 160 recipes, Anne Willan renders an intimate
appreciation of both the food and the culture of Burgundy. As this beautiful and personal book proves, Anne Willan has s
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