Cooking With Pomiane by Edouard de Pomiane
I know you're always hearing about the French cookbook that changes everything, but really, this one does. It did in the 1930s, and it's just as good today, even if I can't even imagine how I'd follow Pomiane's instructions to buy mussels from a fishmonger I trust. I don't trust anything that comes out of the water around here.
Pomiane offers instruction in the art of entertaining that impresses without busting your wallet or your gut (really, do you need a fish course and a meat course?). He espouses making simple foods, but making them perfectly with a few well-chosen side dishes. And he does so in a quirky, lyrical style that's part Romantic poet, and part Shel Silverstein. I like to think of him as "Uncle Pommy."
Uncle Pommy doesn't care if you've never fasted a snail to make escargot before. In fact, he warns you, "Let the snails fast for 48 hours. Lift the lid. It is a horrid sight. The volume of excrement seems almost as big as that of the snails." And he has a sense of humor devilish enough to know how much you'll enjoy murdering the vile brutes: "The liquid boils. Throw in the snails. Poor things. They will do no more damage to the vegetation."
Uncle Pommy concludes each of his recipes with an endearing little finish like, "I simply can't go on. It makes me too hungry," or "Serve it as it comes from the oven, golden-brown and steaming, with a glass of white wine which should not be too dry. And don't forget to drink to my health."
We wouldn't dream of it, Uncle Pommy. Thanks to Sheryn at LAPL for putting me on to this charmer.