Rene Roussin's preface:
INTRODUCTION by Kellow Chesney
Preface by Rene Roussin
- 12 Royal Menus
- Menus de Reception for private entertaining
- Stocks, meat glaces, essence de poisson, consommés, aspics
- Stuffings Mousses, Garnishings, Savoury Rice etc.
- notes on Braising and Roasting, Court Bouillons, and Fish Poaching, Marinades
- Short and Puff Pastry and other Pates. Sponge Mixture
- Entremets, Patisseries, Fours Secs, Sweet Dressings
- Cream and Water Ices, Iced Soufflés, Bombes, Syrups and Fruit
This book is made up of two separate, but complementary, parts.
PART ONE consists of eighteen menus described in detail. Twelve of these are of meals that I prepared for the British Royal Family during the time I was chef de cuisine to H.M. King George VI and include two large state banquets and a traditional Christmas Dinner a l'anglaise. The remaining six are simpler, being designed for family entertaining and composed of fairly straightforward dishes.
But all such cooking depends on a considerable number of basic preparations and standard sauces and dressings. Without these, the very foundation of a classical cuisine, nothing worthwhile can be attempted; and since failure to prepare them properly lies at the root of most culinary troubles, to omit them would have been absurd. On the other hand to have included them in the recipes given with the menus would have led to impossible repetition and produced a book the size of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. They have therefore been relegated to PART TWO, where their preparation and function is described and explained. For the same reason I have included in this part of the work recipes for bombes and other frozen sweets, pastry of different kinds, patisserie etc., as well as my general observations on different methods of cookery. Thus while the first part of the work may be of greater interest to the gastronome, it is the second which is most likely to prove of value to those concerned with the work of the kitchen. So far as I know there is no similar description of the bases de cuisine in existence. R.R.
Kellow Chesney's Introduction: Although it consists almost entirely of recipes and information about how best to carry them out, this is hardly a cookbook in the ordinary, impersonal, recipe-book sense. At the same time it is very far from being a matey, buttonholing account of personal hints and wheezes. (It advocates very few short cuts, and nobody is likely to save a brass farthing as a result of reading it on the contrary one is far more likely to be enticed into crippling extravagance.) Quite simply, it is a description by a most experienced, accomplished and intelligent cook of just how he prepares various dishes. Thus when M. Roussin says in his preface that to the best of his knowledge there 'is no similar description of the bases de cuisine in existence', he seems to be telling rather less than the truth. For he not only explains the basic stocks, sauces, marinades, syrups etc. on which his more elaborate dishes are founded, but enters into explicit, and when necessary carefully detailed, accounts of the preparation of the dishes themselves down to the last culinary refinement. And it is exactly this detailed, business like exposition that, to my mind, gives the book its unique quality. It contains just those vital particulars normally omitted from works treating of what it is convenient to call haute cuisine.
It must not be supposed that all the dishes described are complex. A number, indeed, are very simple, while all those in the six Menus de Reception (pp. 113-52) should be within the compass of any reasonably experienced amateur. But here again the same principles apply, years spent in charge of different kitchens appear to have convinced the author that careful explanation about frying a chicken or preparing a simple braisage is never superfluous. In fact where most worthwhile books about advanced cookery are merely instructional this one is an exposition.
Although M. Roussin is very far from being one of those writers of cookbooks who anxiously obtrude their personalities into their works with anecdotes of their old mother's brass-glinting, ham-hung kitchen, it seems to me that this book is curiously pervaded by the author's character, which seems to show itself not merely in occasional asides but even in his matter-of-fact directions. But this may be an illusion founded on my having met and listened to him before I ever deciphered a line of his atrocious writing. He is not large, markedly French in appearance, dry yet friendly in manner, and with a turn for wild fantasy which creeps inconspicuously into his conversation, unperceived at 'first by his interlocutor. Unlike many chefs de cuisine he has worked at every branch of his trade and discusses it with the total confidence of the master craftsman. Although he treasures marks of esteem from various very eminent persons he gives little sign of being greatly impressed with humanity, humble or exalted, and seems free from any trace of snobbery. During a number of encounters I never heard him utter the word 'art' in connection with cookery, and only once refer to a dish as a creation, making a small but frighteningly sardonic grimace as he did so. He was apprenticed to a pastry-cook in youth (a rough life he says, where one learnt to duck like lightning); went to England as a young man and became second cook to a great pre-1914 hostess (his crucial training in comme-il-faut kitchen management); served in the French Army; and ran numerous restaurant kitchens including one on a liner before going to Buckingham Palace. After the war he went to America for a time.
Taken as a whole, the simple with the elaborate, the dishes described here represent the cuisine de grand luxe, the culinary apex of our culture, an elaborate, eclectic gastronomic tradition especially suited to the provision of extended and harmoniously arranged feasts. Such peaks may not synchronize with the most edifying moments in social development, the best men don't always eat best: but they do represent a perfectly valid achievement, and moreover an interesting one. The recipes given here for Boar's Head and Chicken Galatine are social documents in themselves.