The Kitchen and the Cook

The Kitchen and the Cook

Nicolas Freeling, best known for producing some of the finest of modern crime fiction, began his working life as an apprentice cook in a large French hotel, and continued cooking professionally for many years. Here is his memoir drawn from these experiences, a blend of the culinary and the literary, and includes recipes....

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Title:The Kitchen and the Cook
Author:Nicolas Freeling
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Edition Language:English

The Kitchen and the Cook Reviews

  • Dan

    I ran across this in the footnotes of one of Bourdain's books as an inspiration for

    . The first book, "The Kitchen Book", reads much the same-- an entertaining biography of a cook in post-war France and England.

    Much of the book is the very entertaining minutiae of keeping a decaying French hotel or a ill-conceived restaurant afloat. In both cases, Freeling writes candidly of his professional short comings and how they're dampened or amplified by the various personalities orbi

    I ran across this in the footnotes of one of Bourdain's books as an inspiration for

    . The first book, "The Kitchen Book", reads much the same-- an entertaining biography of a cook in post-war France and England.

    Much of the book is the very entertaining minutiae of keeping a decaying French hotel or a ill-conceived restaurant afloat. In both cases, Freeling writes candidly of his professional short comings and how they're dampened or amplified by the various personalities orbiting these businesses. The companionship outweighs the hardship, but not by much-- but Freeling's prespective keeps it from feeling weighed down.

    This is one of the few books I've read more than once.

    The second book, "The Cook Book", is an effort by Freeling to create a cookbook entirely devoid of measurements. There's a lot that can go wrong and it's not as friendly a read although it has some very entertaining passages. For the most part, if the subject is a dish you've cooked or want to cook, then it works. If you're interested in cookbooks like this Nigel Slater hits a homerun with

    -- very highly recommended.

  • David R. Godine

    "Nicolas Freeling is the author of two of the best books about cooking in the English language.

    and

    have long been favorites of mine. That they will appear under one cover, with the original illustrations, is fine news indeed. I can't help regretting that Ludwig Bemelmans is not here to see this new edition of his good friend's prose. The two men were strangely alike in their abilities to describe the true joys of cooking and eating like civilized human beings."

    — M

    "Nicolas Freeling is the author of two of the best books about cooking in the English language.

    and

    have long been favorites of mine. That they will appear under one cover, with the original illustrations, is fine news indeed. I can't help regretting that Ludwig Bemelmans is not here to see this new edition of his good friend's prose. The two men were strangely alike in their abilities to describe the true joys of cooking and eating like civilized human beings."

    — M.F.K. Fisher

    "[He:] will be read for a long time, because while he was turning his vegetables and reducing his sauces he had an eye to the social context of what he was doing, and to the rich ragout of Zola-esque characters by whom we was surrounded."

    "Sensitively civilized and very European . . . absolutely delightful to read."

  • Thorn

    i just love books like this. "

    " mid-century france, and elsewhere.

  • ^

    I absolutely loved “The Kitchen Book”, but found “The Cook Book” a bit more of a ramble.

    Freeling’s turn of phrase is sharp and pithy as he describes his early career working in kitchens; “he was quartering boiled potatoes with of all things a long ham knife” (p.92, KB). What a wonderful picture?! One feels that there is much wisdom within the pages of The Kitchen Book. And much give and take; “All cooks like to show off virtuosity, and restaurants encourage them since it is good publicity. The

    I absolutely loved “The Kitchen Book”, but found “The Cook Book” a bit more of a ramble.

    Freeling’s turn of phrase is sharp and pithy as he describes his early career working in kitchens; “he was quartering boiled potatoes with of all things a long ham knife” (p.92, KB). What a wonderful picture?! One feels that there is much wisdom within the pages of The Kitchen Book. And much give and take; “All cooks like to show off virtuosity, and restaurants encourage them since it is good publicity. The horrors begin to creep in when all this art forgets about the nose and only clamours for the eye’s attention.” No change from today, then. This is definitely a book which every catering student would benefit from reading; and be thankful for their training in an educational establishment prior to their final knocking into shape in a restaurant or hotel kitchen.

    The Cook Book is quite different. Freeling muses on the practice of cooking dishes. Unsurprisingly this acts to remind the reader that many (but not all) culinary tastes and methods have radically changed over the last forty years; though he writes so interestingly (even bringing in the legends of King Arthur) that his reader is more than happy to both wallow in nostalgia …. and wonder if some present day ‘improvements’ actually are?

  • Rogue Reader

    After a comfortable apprenticeship and with a good start, Freeling spent 15 years in hotel kitchens and kitchens throughout Europe where ever he could pick up work. Hilarious narrative of some grand old hotels where the system reigns supreme - from process to price, the system keeps staff, costs and food all in line. Some unforgettable characters eking out yet another dish from bits and pieces - croquettes, stews and soups. The kitchens themselves, often so antiquated that I wonder how it was po

    After a comfortable apprenticeship and with a good start, Freeling spent 15 years in hotel kitchens and kitchens throughout Europe where ever he could pick up work. Hilarious narrative of some grand old hotels where the system reigns supreme - from process to price, the system keeps staff, costs and food all in line. Some unforgettable characters eking out yet another dish from bits and pieces - croquettes, stews and soups. The kitchens themselves, often so antiquated that I wonder how it was possible to work, and the forgotten stretches beneath are mesmerizing and haunting. Freeling writes of the grand old hotels in their last days.

    Published in the 70s, these two classics of gastronomy covered Freeling's early, pre-crime fiction career in the post war period.

    A must read!

  • Myles

    An odd mix of contempt and love for the cook’s life.

  • Kaye

    How do you rate two books in one?

    is a fun romp through Freeling's time as a cook in European hotels. (Who knew the creator of van der Valk and Castang was a chef?)

    is a little less interesting. There are recipes, but I marked only three to look at again.

  • Emily

    Touted as the book that inspired Anthony Bourdain, I found it interesting but hard to follow with metaphors that just keep coming at you with a rapidity that made me actually nervous. All the quirky characters made it fun to read.

  • Patty

    First time reading this author, and I did so on the late Anthony Bourdain's recommendation. Very charming, old-school accounting of apprenticeship in the European culinary scene. Not as cheeky as Tony, but still pretty good.

  • J

    Entertaining snapshots of life as a cook in the old French ‘System’. Frequently referred to in Anthony Bourdain's

    .

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