Good news: British American food writer and cooking teacher Anne Willan has just published her classic cookbook “La Varenne Pratique” as an e-book.
I’m definitely in. For years I’ve been mourning the loss of my copy of the massive French cookbook in a long-ago move.
First published in 1989 and widely praised (and coveted) for its clarity and good sense, “La Varenne Pratique” is the cooking school you never attended. Or, for those who were lucky enough to spend time at “La Varenne,” the cooking school Willan founded in Paris in 1975 and ran there for 15 years as well as at Chateau de Fey in Burgundy until 2007, consider this the brush-up course.
And since the original is out of print, unless you come across a copy on the shelves of some out-of-the-way thrift store or inherit one from your great-aunt, this is the only way to get your hands on this essential book.
Alumni of La Varenne include such well-known and celebrated chefs as Steve Raichlen, Jonathan Waxman, Nina Simonds and Amanda Hesser. In her long career, Willan has written more than 30 cookbooks. Her most recent book is the quite wonderful “One Souffle at a Time: A Memoir of Food and France,” which would make a great companion volume to “La Varenne Pratique.”
According to the publisher, the digital reproduction of the original was made by scanning each of its 500-plus pages. It's been divided into four parts, each of which incudes a glossary of cooking terms and cooking equipment and a bibliography. That way you can buy just one part, or all four, whichever you like. Each part is searchable.
Part 1: The Basics covers herbs and seasonings, soups, stocks and sauces as well as milk, eggs and cheese; Part 2: Meat, Poultry and Fish includes game; Part 3: Vegetables, Pasta & Grains includes mushrooms and legumes; and Part 4: Baking, Preserving & Desserts also covers fruit, nuts and freezing.