food for thought: la tartine gourmande

When I went gluten free, I sadly accepted the fact that there would essentially be no reason for me to travel to France or Italy anymore, even though I’ve never been. After all, in the land of pastries and pasta, what would be the point? But apparently Italy is leading the world in gluten free-ness (not surprising, when you think about it), and for the time being, I can bring France to me, thanks to La Tartine Gourmande by Beatrice Peltre.

The synopsis of this book was all I needed to read it: French and American recipes, all gluten free (and all soy free, though that’s technically not mentioned–it’s just a coincidence). Now I know how to make galettes (though I still haven’t tried because I’m scared)! I can make tarts! I can make soups and salads that are more interesting than the ones I make for myself! Just the premise of this book is awesome.

As far as the recipes go, they are easy to follow, and she begins the cooking section of the book with a section on guidelines and tips. If you are confused by the tons of gluten free flours out there (amaranth? almond? tapioca? buckwheat?) she explains their taste and weight clearly so that you know what substitutions might work, and what might appeal most to your tastebuds. In each recipe, too, measurements are given in standard and metric, so you can really tailor her book to your cooking lexicon. And it’s a book that covers the spectrum of recipes, so you can basically cook the entire day out of the book and eat like a Frenchie. Start with her basic recipes, which teach you how to do the doughs and stocks that are the base of a lot of the more complicated ones. She’ll also tell you great trivia and tips throughout, like how you can reuse a vanilla bean by washing and drying it.

It seems modeled after other cookbook-cum-memoirs, and its prose is certainly not as well done as, say, French Women Don’t Get Fat, which was a really great read that just happened to contain recipes. But even though La Tartine Gourmande isn’t much of a read, there’s something in it that isn’t in the more prose-y cookbooks–the photographs. Oh, the photographs! You could say that any cookbook is best loved for its photos, but Peltre takes it to a new level, because she’s not just a good photographer, she really gets color. The photos are probably the best part, but the recipes look delicious as well. Peltre makes cooking and entertaining look fun and achievable, and that’s especially welcome when you’re a gluten free eater. I wish I didn’t have to skip or modify so many recipes with dairy in them, but ultimately, this is a great tool for gluten free cooking that even your non-GF friends will want to eat.