The World’s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia

When they say “only time will tell”, this is what they meant.

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To say that the Larousse Gastronomique is a work of art would at first seem like a pretty grandiose statement. Add to it the tagline, “World’s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia” and the bar just gets re-set at a much higher level.

Pick up the book. I mean physically pick it up. It’s massive. The latest edition (2009) weighs in at an immodest seven pounds! That’s 1216 pages of recipes, information and culinary reference material. That is impressive and more than a little intimidating.

Sure, there are other BIG volumes of food technique and information out there. The Modernist Cuisine comes quickly to mind. But, these are two entirely different animals. Yes, the six volume 2,400+ page set delves unimaginably deep into some pretty obscure cooking topics. But, pound for pound Larousse is the standard bearer.

If you want 200 pages on cooking tools that you may never have access to. Or, recipes that include ingredients so obscure they may be next to impossible to locate, then Modernist is your baby. If you are more in the mood to examine the building blocks of classic techniques married with flavors that have stood the test of time, then Larousse is your archive of choice.

That does not mean that the most recent incarnation of LG doesn’t touch on some of the newer cooking methods and contain some pretty exotic ingredients. It certainly does. But, it tends to be more of a cooking class and less of a science lab.

Since I first laid eyes (and hands) on the book I’ve wanted to write about it. But, what? Where to start? I thought a series right here on CBM.com might be appropriate. The goal will be to explore the Larousse Gastronomique in all of it’s delicious, mouthwatering glory. Maybe to learn how it’s lessons have impacted what we are currently seeing chefs around the world put on their plates. And, possibly gain a little insight into classic culinary thought.

This is the book that many of today’s biggest and most successful chefs cite as their cornerstone. It’s turning 75 years old this year. That’s a milestone that deserves to be celebrated and toasted!

- LH

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