Long before Julia Child or M.F.K. Fisher discovered French cooking, Alice B. Toklas was sampling local dishes, collecting recipes, and cooking for the writers, artists, and expats who lived in Paris between the wars. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Wilder (Toklas called him Thornie), Matisse, and Picasso shared meals at the home she kept with her lover, Gertrude Stein, who famously memorialized her in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.
This Cook Book, however, is Toklas' true memoir, a collection of memories and traditional French recipes that predates Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and recalls the Paris of Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. M.F.K Fisher calls it "a minor masterpiece" in the foreword she wrote for Harper's 30th anniversary edition (1984) and which is included here.
Toklas supplies familiar recipes such as coq au vin, bouillabaisse, and two for boeuf bourguinon that are accessible to cooks of all skill levels. In chapters titled "Food in French Homes," "Dishes for Artists," and "Murder in the Kitchen," she expounds on everything from the first time she killed a carp to the bass she prepared for Picasso. The book also includes her most famous recipe, "haschich fudge," excised from the first American edition, "which anyone could whip up on a rainy day." "Ecstatic reveries and extensions of one's personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected," she writes. "Almost anything Saint Teresa did, you can do better."