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Published in the United States in 1974 but long out of print, Fernand Point's engaging cookbook, Ma Gastronomie, will see a new, and wonderful, edition released by The Rookery Press on Thursday.  Both Thomas Keller, who offers a foreword, and Charlie Trotter cite this book as the cookbook that most influenced them as young cooks.  The book is half stories, half recipes from Point's famous restraurant, La Pyramide, a place that spawned the generation of chefs who would introduce nouvelle cuisine to the world, Bocuse and his band.  The recipes are in my favorite form, simple paragraphs of general description ("Ecrivesse Cardinalisees: Prepare and reduce a court bouillon of dry white wine, onions, shallots, carrots, salt, freshly ground black pepper, thyme, parsley and cloves.  Add the crayfish and cook, covered, over hight heat in the court-bouillon."  That's it.)

But the best parts of the book are the stories of Point himself and his words, which were truly what inspired Trotter and Keller.

Here are a few choice mots from the notebook he kept.Pointportrait

—As far as cuisine is concerned, one must read everything, see everything, hear everything, try everything, observe everything, in order to retain, in the end, just a little bit!

—Butter!  Give me butter!  Always butter!

—A good cuisinier never dirties his apron outside work.

—Chickens must spend four or five days in the refrigerator, never the freezer, after having been killed.

—Before judging a thin man, one must get some information.  Perhaps he was once fat.

—The taste of walnut oil goes very well with red wine.

—A good apprentice cook must be as polite with the dishwasher as with the chef.

—Success is the sum of a lot of little things done correctly.

—The duty of a good cuisinier is to transmit to the generations who will replace him, everything he has learned and experienced.

—I have been so well nurtured throughout my life that I’m sure to die completely cured.

Not a book for the thirty minute meals crowd but a must for chefs and restaurateurs.  I highly recommend it.

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25 Wonderful responses to “Ma Gastronomie Republished”

  • Kirk

    I found a copy of this book a few years back when it was still out of a print and paid a tidy sum to purchase. Though I cannot argue with its importance to and impact on so many great chefs today, when I first read it I was disappointed. The cover bears Point’s name and no other and the first person possessive of the title would indicate a work by Point himself. Yet the book is mainly about Point and La Pyramide written years after the fact. There are recipes and the brief passages you cite but most of the book is not the great cuisinier’s voice. Still, I pulled it off the shelves again last night and it made for some wonderful dreams.

  • Laurence

    I have the old edition, and read it from time to time. The recipes are very old school in explanation – take some lettuce and stew it in butter – but it’s the little one-liners and stories that take this book into my Pantheon. When I read someplace that Charlie Trotter liked having champagne in the kitchen, it was a LOL moment. That bugger’s affecting Point! FP used mags. What style!

  • Elizabeth Clauser

    I had pre-ordered mine ages ago on super sale. I just received it yesterday and, after reading your entry, am even more excited to dive in!

  • John Dumbrille

    Ditto. “Success is the sum of a lot of little things done correctly.”
    Michael Caine played a character in Mona Lisa who was of a similar ilk. Noblesse oblige.

  • luis

    Someday I may be ready for this book. Right now I just don’t feel worthy. Too much learning ahead before this type book will be required in MY kitchen. Met Matt Damon tonite the movie star!…. he suggested I vote next Wednesday… (Elections being held on Tuesday). I hope he has got it right… otherwise socialism is just dejavu nightmare dreams become reality once again for me. The older I get the more nigthmaresihhh! disapointments I have under my belt. Wish I was born under a diff star. Some of us just seem to be at ease in our times….

  • Scotty Harris

    A good year – 1955 – my wife was born then. But, thanx for your response. If there was a new commentary, like a new commentary on I might buy it, but I have come to adore the condiment stains on my existing copy – I like to read while I eat!

  • ruhlman

    scott, the only thing new to my knowledge along with some amended recipes is the intro by Keller.

    I daresay if he’d known when he was first given the book by chef henin, in his early twenties, that he would one day be asked write the forward, he’d have tipped over like a felled redwood.

    for people who like coincidences: point died in 1955, the year keller was born.

  • Sean Kelly

    Great!

    This transplanted Clevelander is #3 on the Seattle Public Library list.

  • Katie

    Much like chadzilla, I’ve been wanting to get my hands on this book for a loooooong time, so I’m glad to see it back in print, and already purchased it on Amazon…thanks, Mike!

  • Erin

    That is fantastic! I had a rather elderly copy that disappeared in my last move and I’ve been dying for a new copy.

  • jscirish27

    Great, now I have a reason to go to Kitchen Arts & Letters on my day off besides browsing. Can’t wait to check it out.

  • Scott Harris

    It may be a beautiful new edition, with a great new introduction, but is there anything there that I won’t find in my old ’74 edition? MOney is tight these days :-)

  • david

    I like that Point instructed his waiters, if a diner lit up a cigarette between courses, to immediately bring them their check, noting to the client; “Obviously you’re done with dining.”

    Of course, inventing the Marjolaine endears his even further…

  • chadzilla

    I have been trying to aquire this book for about a year now (with limited cooperation from Amazon for some reason). It’s one that I’ve never read, and so badly want to dive into it. I’m a sucker for old school food rhetoric and how it relates to modern food.
    One of my mentor chefs detested Point because for him, he represented the cuisine that he was trying to break away from. Years later (and a couple of food movements later), we can see Fernand Point from the perspective that he was trying to break free from the cuisine of his mentors… well, not break free exactly, but find a more free form of expression. How far we have come, and how still very relevant to all that is happening today.

  • jodycakes

    “Success is the sum of a lot of little things done correctly.”

    THIS STATEMENT IS BRILLIANT…and should be the mantra of anyone just starting out…it ain’t gonna be easy.

    Awesome recommendation – thank you.
    Will pick up a copy.

  • Rhonda

    Thanks Michael. I look forward to reading this book 18 years from now when it becomes available in Canada (providing we don’t burn it).

  • NYCook

    Good to be back. Doubles for the past month, so not much time to post. Before I get started Ruhlman I was wondering if you had a chance to read AC’s Urban Italian and if so would like to get your thoughts on it.

    Anyway I consider this book. Ferdinand Points book among MY holy trinity of cookbooks the other two being Marco Pierre White’s Devil in the kitchen and Escoffiers Le Guide Culinare. What can I say i am a sucker for that old school French shit although I no longer cook it. “OUI CHEF!” I would love to add Fergus Hendersons book to that list but I just don’t see any wiggle room so we will call that 3B.

    Anyway back to Point. I remember I had to do a project on him way back in the day in
    B-block Gastronomy in “Lord” John Nihoffs class at the CIA and just thinking to myself this dude(Point that is)knew how to do it right man.

    This is my favorite quote from his book, and I guess a shot across the bow of those people who time and time again post complaints on this forum about having to make stock…
    “Every morning the cuisinier must start again at zero, with nothing on the stove. That is what real cuisine is all about.”

  • S. Woody

    Synchronicity strikes:

    In Judith Jones’ The Tenth Muse, which I was reading yesterday, I came across her telling of meeting Point at La Pyramide in 1948:

    “When we were about to feeling far too scruffy for such an elegant place, a very large man – well over six feet and more than three hundred pounds, I’d guess – approached us. His eyes were on Nikki, and he asked if our caniche was hungry. I piped up and said yes, and so were we, but I was afraid that we were not properly dressed for this lovely place, and, of course, we didn’t have a reservation. Maybe it was because of our tawny-colored poodle (I learned later that he had one) that he reached out his hand, said that he was Fernand Point and wanted to feed us, so please come in.”

    She goes on to remember the marvelous meal he served them (the dog first, of course). Given Ms. Jones’ memory of the food and the man, I’ll be interested in reading his own thoughts, in his own words. Thank’s for the heads up!

  • Victoria

    Love these quotes you pulled out. Definitely a must read. Thanks for sharing!

  • Blushing Hostess

    I look forward to looking over this book. However, this method of recipe is least helpful to me: Being self-taught, but nonetheless totally commmited, I would spend far more time researching and working out the court bouillon etc to get this right than actually cooking the thing itself. Possibly, had I the benefit of being formally trained it would be more comfortable… I have often wished Gastronomique could be more useful to me for the same reason.

  • Natalie Sztern

    I would think it is men like this that originally made the world of the cuisinier a proud one where men and woman held their heads as high as their hats. It all rolls into upper crust, old school ideals.