Pardon My Foie Gras was written by the prolific cookbook author Ruth Chier Rosen, and published in 1956. You can see her astounding collection of vintage cookbooks that span decades and cuisines at her blog Food of the Fifties. She even has an app!
Though a far cry from the comprehensive volumes Julia Child penned on French cooking, this little book offers a view into 1950s America and its attitude toward French food. Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking would not appear until 1961, and we all know what happened after that!
Ruth Chier Rosen wrote an entire series of these little cookbooks. Ours measures only 4 x 5 inches, and is spiral bound with plenty of lovely vintage flourishes. Clever titles with puns are common in her oeuvre. The recipes are short, direct and easy to follow.
As you might expect, we have the foie gras themed volume. It’s all about the “choice cuisine of France,” and we want to share a few of the pages with you here.
The spiral bound book and a clever box to protect it.
Inside the front cover, a very intense Frenchman.
As you can see, Ruth was introducing the concept that eating in the French manner involved caring. There is no place for indifference in cooking or dining.
We like Ruth’s message, and it still resonates: French food need not be intimidating. Do things simply, do them well.
And here is a selection of several pages and recipes worth noting.
We begin in the beginning. Soups & sauces.
French onion soup is a classic that borders on kitsch at this point. But made at home, with your own stock, it is something wonderful. This recipe may be a bit reductionist. It does not make clear that you must really, truly brown those onions.
The other is for chestnut soup – we love French chestnuts (and we offer them). They are perfect to pair with game and poultry; this sauté with fennel is a favorite of Ariane’s at the holidays.
Two soups you might like to try.
A chapter we cannot skip: the meat and vegetables. It’s nice to see such variety – tripe, veal, lamb, sweetbreads, liver – perhaps easier to find in 1956 America than we might have expected.
Let’s get to the meat, shall we?
Before Julia made it a household name: Boeuf Bourguignon
Paupiettes de veau
You can see Ariane’s recipe for Paupiettes de Veau, and a video in which she demonstrates the preparation. The translation is “Veal Birds,” because they are also known as oiseaux sans tête, or birds without heads.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
There are plenty of recipes for chicken, and what French cookbook would be complete without a good roasted chicken recipe? It is the cornerstone of a balanced diet.
The photos are all black and white, but the charming illustrations make up for it.
We cannot resist the guinea hen – or pintade, in French. In this recipe, we wonder what happens to the rest of the hen. Naturally, every scrap should be eaten and the bones cooked down for stock. Guinea hen legs are not to be missed.
Guinea hen is commonly eaten in France.
We were intrigued by the cassoulet recipe. But this Toulouse cassoulet seems to be missing something – could it be duck? Our version is Gascon all the way, so we are biased, bien sur. And while the simplified translation of “baked beans” is accurate, it leaves out some of the caché of cassoulet. The recipe does not involve any baking in the oven, which is the stage that makes cassoulet all crunchy on the outside.
But where’s the duck?
We were excited to see the offering from the region of Gascony. And this one involved torching a duck, so that’s fun.
There are desserts and dishes with eggs… and some handy information about wine. We just couldn’t resist this chart of vintages from 1927-1955.
And if you are going to drink, please be responsible and use the correct glass.
Make mine crystal, please.
Ruth lays out a few menus using her recipes and pairing with wine.
However, there is no foie gras in Pardon My Foie Gras. The closest thing is the pâté in the Tournedos Rossini- we know that’s supposed to be foie gras. In 1956 the only foie gras in the United States was canned pâté de foie gras. And some people still think the word “pâté” is synonymous with foie gras.
As you may now, it wasn’t until Ariane started D’Artagnan in 1985 that any fresh foie gras was available in the U.S. at all. Today we sell a variety of preparations, as well as whole livers and foie gras slices. So here’s our version of Tournedos Rossini, with a slice of fresh, seared foie gras on top.
On the inside back cover, a happy truffle hunter.
Please meet Mrs. Rosen.
Our little volume came with a card promoting the other titles penned by Ruth and published by her husband Richard Rosen.
Look at the last title – there was urban farming in the 1950s! Sure, it’s being reinvented today on rooftops and in vacant lots in cities across America, but here it is in 1956. Ahead of her time?
Intrigued by the first one…
If you come across any of these little books, be sure to scoop them up. They offer a charming view of cooking in the 1950s, and would make unique gifts for those friends who are cookbook collectors.