Sunday, November 23, 2008

Joël Robuchon and American cooking gadgets


I don't have many "written by famous chef" cookbooks, but I was intrigued by an interview on Zagat with Joël Robuchon about the above book, which looks like this in its UK edition:

The first thing that piqued my curiousity is that I can see from the description that the book is translated, but I can't quite figure out from which work in French.

I was also interested in your reactions to what Robuchon says in the interview about the difference between the number of kitchen gadgets in American and French homes:
"One thing I have always noticed throughout my years is that Americans always have so much more equipment in the home than the French do. Even now. You walk into an American home kitchen and they have a garlic peeler, an egg cracker and all sorts of gadgets. The average French home cook has a pan, a knife and a whisk."


Do you agree with him?

32 comments:

James Walsh said...

I don't agree with the basic utensils that he cites. I think he is oversimplifying things. I do agree that the american household has a lot of gadgets simply because americans like gadgets. I am european and the only really exotic gadget I have is a garlic crusher from Rosle. This is a fantastic tool and is an engineering marvel in its construction. Now I don't have garlicy hands anymore but I can't help feeling a little guilty after using it. I do have a lot of pots and some I have never used.

v said...

He forgot the pressure cooker :-)

Seriously, I don't know really. Most French people I know here don't have dozens of gadgets in their kitchens, but they are not very ambitious cooks either. People who are keen on cooking tend to have more gadgets ... although personally as someone with a small kitchen I am very anti-gadget, especially gadgets that only do one thing, such as peeling garlic. There are many tasks that can be achieved with a good-quality knife!

Betty C. said...

Thanks for your comment, James. I too tend to think Americans just have more gadgets, period.

croquecamille said...

I agree with v - people who are into cooking have more cooking equipment, period. There is certainly no shortage of cooking gadgets available for purchase in France, so somebody must be buying them.

I'm interested to see the book - I've reserved a copy in French for a book signing in a couple of weeks, and I'm very excited to meet the man himself!

Sally Crawford from London said...

Phou-eee-iii-p - and I have just ordered the P. Starck Juicy Salif Lemon Squeezer.

It was in a design sale.

Otherwise pretty minimalist kitchen utensils: one small and one large kitchen devil knife; one small and one large plastic chopping board; well-designed metal catering tongs for when I burn the toast or (their more usual use) for turning things - garlic crusher ('Made in Italy'). Oh and one tin opener (one of the legs doubles as a jack for prizing off the lid of jars).

One thing I keep meaning to buy: a proper pepper grinder.

Betty C. said...

camille -- thanks for your comment. I guess I am to assume that the book hasn't come out yet in France? Maybe that's why I couldn't find it on Amazon...

sally - -I'm not sure where British people fit in on the gadget scale!

James Walsh said...

From my recollection the british people were not very adventurous when it came to cooking but that may have changed by now. They do have a lot of prepreparaed food I think. They eat a lot of curry from take out places and also fish and chips. Places like Marks and Spencers also have a lot of prepared food I think.

Le laquet said...

I'm not big on the gadget front - 3 knives (including a huge chopper that I'm too scared to use), a marble chopping board, a wooden juice reamer, a balloon whisk, some kitchen tongs, a microplane grater and one of these. I used to have garlic crusher but you wasted so much garlic in it that now I just do it with salt and a knife live Raymond "taught" me.

Betty C. said...

James, you may be in for some arguments there from my British readers, or even my own experience! I think there has been quite a culinary renaissance in G.B., a lot of great cookbooks (of course I'm assuming people are cooking from them), and I do believe London was named 'The world's top city for gastronomy" or some such a few years back.

There is a lot of prepared food available -- but I might point out, there is in France too now!

Betty C. said...

laquet, those plunger-mixers are great. Do you ever use the little food processor at the bottom? At first I thought it would just be a gimmick but it is great for chopping onions, herbs...

Loulou said...

I would tend to agree that most of my American friends like the gadgets, even if they don't love cooking. I've seen the same things for sale here in France but most of my French friends, even if they own restaurants and love to cook, do not have all the little garlic peelers, egg separators, etc.
Kitchen size is another factor. I have a fair amount of cooking equipment, but have tried not to overwhelm my small kitchen space with too much. I cook every day so what I have has to be very functional.
I love my immersion blender, microplane graters, knives, tongs, potato ricer, heat resistant spatulas and food processor. Must haves for me!

James Walsh said...

I quite agree with you. I left England in 1970 and did not work there again. I am not too sure though that the culinary renaissance in England extends itself to the home cook unless they are very serious amateurs. I remember the ideas I had about France before I got there. I really thought everyone ate Sole Meuniére for lunch and Tournedos Rossini for dinner ( this was the sixties before these dishes were pushed out for sexier ones, and quite rightly too ) but I was surprised to see that the average household drinks cheap wine on a daily basis and a lot of pasta is made. The difference with the French of course is the they have cuisine in their blood cooking is second nature to them. They grew up with the things we spend a lifetime learning. When they do do things right they have years of tradition at their fingertips. Not so in England.

Elisabeth said...

I agree with those who think that:
- Those who love to cook are bound to have more kitchen equipment and gadgets than those who don't.
- Americans who love to cook will have more gadgets than their French counterparts.

I do own a number of kitchen gadgets, but not too many. I still do not really have a super-duper knife, because I have never been willing to spit up the bucks to get a very good one. Although, it is the one tool that is absolutely indispensable in a kitchen worthy of that name.

The immersion blender is a godsend.

Sally Crawford from London said...

Well, we Brits are Europeans. Ahem, yes . . ..

And the cuisine of Europe does call to us as we reach for yet another ready meal and get ready to insert it in the microwave.

I'm making myself quite miserable just thinking about (some of) our food.

I'm going to be reflecting on and blogging tomorrow on what I think are some of the reasons.

Betty C. said...

Sally, I've always eaten great food at reasonable prices in London, if that's any consolation! Of course I do seek it out...

Jess said...

I'd definitely say that Americans tend to be pro-gadget in general, not just in the kitchen. I'm sure that a big part of that is our consumer culture, but I wonder how much of it is a storage issue as well. We have bigger kitchens and pantries, so we don't have that same natural boundary.

I've been pretty anti-gadget myself for the past few years. Any gadget I buy has to earn its cupboard real estate. In a lot of cases, doing the task by hand is just as efficient as getting out the gadget, setting it up, using it, cleaning it, and putting it away.

I'm trying to focus more on skills than gadgets. There's a saying (Australian Aboriginal, I think): "the more you know, the less you need".

James Walsh said...

I guess that settles the english question.

James Walsh said...

On the other hand. We shouldn't forget that England has a great tradition of its own cooking in Europe. English chefs were renowned as roast chefs. Roasting, done properly was a great skill. The steak and kidney pies and puddings are delicious. The products on the market are just wonderful. Plenty of vegetables, fish and meat. I have never had roast beef like I had in london.

Le laquet said...

Umm ... I feel quite injured by certain comments about the "British" cook - we like the French also have cooking in our blood. I have fond childhood memories of huge bowls of cawl cennin, roast lamb with rosemary, rabbit with lentils, really good sausages, toad in the hole, home grown tomatoes, welshcakes, bara brith and bread and butter pudding. No M&S (too blinking expensive mate) and take-out curry in this house ~ I learnt how to make it from scratch from a girl I work with who comes from Amritsar in the Punjab. I might be a serious amateur BUT I think you'll find that the home-grown (ie your own herbs and vegetables) and home cooked renaissance has spread amongst the British far further than you could imagine.

p.s. Betty I use the little food processor bit at the bottom but only for herbs really like coriander for my onion and spice mix (durka)at the start of a curry ~ I'm there with my knife for most other veg ... strangely I find the repetitiveness of "vegetable culling" comforting ;o)

Betty C. said...

Well, I said British cooking has undergone a renaissance! I figured some people chime in on that.

le laquet, I'm always defending British cooking to French people, BTW...as well as American cooking for that matter!

I wouldn't recommend the processor for serious vegetable chopping anyway -- but it's good for onions, which can be a pain.

James Walsh said...

Betty
I think you have opened up lively discussion here. I must take you to task about the food processor and onions. There is a vast difference between onions chopped by hand: all the the same size,looking at the end like a bed of jewels, and onions done in the food processor. The processor pulverises the onions and takes too much of the juice out of them making them too 'oniony', chopping on the other hand contains the flavor and looks much better in a sauce where you leave the onions in like a chasseur or some such sauce.
The processor is good for compound butters, marinades for jerk chicken, chimichurri sauce, gaspacho and the like. I would use it for chopping garlic although I really prefer to chop that too.

Sally Crawford from London said...

I’ve put my recent thoughts about London (I have to say London is not merely Britain but the world) up on my blog – may I commend them to you as a blatant attempt to curry custom as it were.

I am pleased and relieved, Betty, that you managed to get some decent food when you were here, and that James knows about the British national dish, namely fish and chips, and can appreciate our wonderful roasts and roasting techniques.

Roasts are wonderfully primitive and come from our great tradition of roasting whole oxen. And fish and chips, you know, is the original British finger food, not really a plated dish at all. One eats it all straight from a hot bag (wrapped in newspaper to protect the fingers from the heat) helping oneself to plump oily chips and tearing off chunks of batter-fried fish. Extremely wonderfully primitive and best enjoyed by a bracing bit of British coastline with the fish but lately landed and filleted straight into the batter, hardly a utensil in sight. :))

Sally Crawford from London said...

PS: 'The' British gadget (powered I’m afraid) is now the Kenwood CH180 (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kenwood-CH180-Mini-Chopper-300w/dp/B0000C6WPC) as recommended by our own Dear Delia in ‘Delia’s How to Cheat at Cooking’ (http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=delia+how+to+cheat&tag=googhydr-21&index=aps&hvadid=2444510756&ref=pd_sl_6x73rchp90_b)

Veronica said...

My experience (as a Brit now living in France) is that in Britain many people stuff their swish fitted kitchens with expensive gadgets, spend their evenings watching cooking shows on TV, and then eat takeaways and ready-meals because they "don't have time to cook"! Maybe the credit crunch will change that ...

PS my finger slipped on my previous comment, so my name was somewhat truncted :-)

spacedlaw said...

Then my kitchen is not average. I don't go into gadgets much but I still doo have loads of stuff. And a pressure cooker, which he does not mention,

Betty C. said...

I'm not sure a pressure cooker is really a gadget! But we could go back to my previous post on that subject to discuss it...

Sally Crawford from London said...

Veronica, you absolutely nailed it: portrait of the average Brit. ;))

Three comments: (1) many of us do not own a TV

(2) The sole reason non-TV Brits sometimes dream of, and would sometimes move to, France is to do with the food . . .

(3) The genius of 'How to Cheat at Cooking' (which we have ALL bought) is that it allows us to make our own ready meals, assembled from a mixture of fresh ingredients, ready prepared ingredients (canned chopped onions, for instance), and fresh frozen (Aunt Bessie's mash, for instance). Wondrous.

Veronica said...

Sally: Oh, please don't get me started on that book! :-) Now you don't have time to cook because you're too busy visiting 6 different supermarkets to get the (often expensive) "cheat" ingredients!

I was interested to note that Delia has now re-released her earlier book "Frugal Food", which is all about making the most of cheap, fresh, in-season ingredients (I have the 1973 edition). Another effect of the credit crunch no doubt!

On point 2, I'm afraid we have junk food and ready-meals in France too now :-( But our shopping is not quite so ruled by supermarkets.

Sally Crawford from London said...

I've just come back from my French class so I thought of you and your French foodiness - and James's comment earlier about chopping onions.

Of course James is right: absolutely. It is better to chop rather than process onions: the flavour and the texture ARE better.*

But where women are unassisted (i.e. have no willing slaves in the kitchen), and need to sit down to a meal, they must manage as they can.

The genius of Ms Delia Smith imo is that she promotes good food using a few deft shortcuts.

One can have proper food, conveniently fast, with all the proper olive oil, butter, garlic, fresh vegetables, proper chocolate, etc. that one chooses..

(But of course ‘cheat’ is a horrible word: it probably fits better on the cover than 'shortcuts to good food'.)

* Did you see ‘Chocolat’, the scene where Lena Olin (as Josephine) brings the plate of chopped almonds (which have ‘mounted’) to Vianne for approval?

Betty C. said...

This debate seems never-ending! James and Sally, do you know each other and are you trying to settle some sort of personal score on this post, lol?

I suppose onions are better hand-diced or sliced. But the process makes me cry, makes my hands smell (yes I know I could put on gloves...)

Just about everything is better if you do it yourself. I do a lot of cooking things myself, but do take some shortcuts because I am not content to live on a diet of pasta with butter or olive oil when I don't have time to cook.

Sally Crawford from London said...

No, I do not have the pleasure of knowing James.

I have an instinct that, like all of your Cuisine Quotidienne bloggers, he reveres good food.

And what could be more important than good food? It is a base of civilization.

Betty, I must mention that there is a student diet here in these islands: pasta, real proper olive oil, and garlic, that nourishes the parts that takeaway food cannot reach. (And if the hands smell onioney, well, there are worse smells.)

Sally Crawford from London said...

and PS: I totally agree with shortcuts. Bring them on.