First published in Paris between 1651 and 1660, La Varenne's collection of three titles is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the French cookery of the 17th century.
The watershed from medieval to modern times is being crossed under our eyes in La Varenne’s pages. Translated and merrily pillaged throughout Europe (the first English translation of The French Cook was in 1653), La Varenne (c. 1615–1678) was chef to the Marquis d’Uxelles.
His was the first French cookery book of any substance since Le Viandier almost 300 years earlier. It was, therefore, the first to record and embody the immense advances which French cooking had made, largely under the influence of Italy, since the 15th century.
Some medieval characteristics are still visible, but many have disappeared. New World ingredients make their entrance; and a surprising number of recipes are for dishes still made in modern times (omelettes, beignets, even pumpkin pie).