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Review of Pinardises: recipes and culinary remarks

by James Turner

IASC Bulletin; 17.1-2 January-April 1995; Reprinted with permission of author.

A cookbook without an index is like a meal without guests who appreciate it.

Pinardises: recipes and culinary remarks / Daniel Pinard, Montréal : Les Éditions du Boréal, 1994. ISBN 2-89052-636-4  

Translated by Judy Hunt

When I'm asked if I like to cook, I always answer no in order to avoid cooking junkie discussions, a type of conversation that I prefer to avoid. In fact, it isn't entirely true that I don't like to cook. I love to eat on the condition that I don't have to invest a lot of time in the preparation of the meal: one hour suffices. Therefore, it's not surprising that my repertoire of great culinary successes is rather limited. I imagine that there lies the motivation of a friend, who offered us Pinardises: recipes and culinary remarks, by Daniel Pinard, picked up on her way out of a bookstore. This author is a cooking junkie and describes his art with such finesse and such enthusiasm that one would love to be invited to dinner. When one sees him on television or hears him on the radio, the recipes he presents are always surprising, and tempt the palate by promising unexpected pleasures. One leafs through his book, therefore, with enthusiasm: unusual combinations of foods that reflect a successful meal and are prepared without too much effort; this last aspect pleases me particularly. Alas, such was my disappointment recently in consulting this book's index when I had some pork loin to prepare and not much time. The index didn't exist!

In leafing quickly through the index, I was expecting to find a recipe that would please our dinner guests, would be perfectly suitable for what I had on hand, and in which one would recognize the magic of Daniel Pinard. I could imagine a delicious meal which our invited guests would talk about for months to come.

I was expecting an index similar to the one in the Cooking Encyclopedia of Jehane Benoit, a very useful book for those, like me, who have many gaps in their basic knowledge. If you find yourself, again, with a lot of carrots, for example, you take a look in the Encyclopedia's index under "carrots" and right away you find recipes for carrot dishes as well as basic information about this food.

Above all, I was not expecting to not find an index. What an idea, to publish a cookbook without an index! What is considered an index in this book is an alphabetical list of recipes. Apparently, that succeeded in deceiving the cataloger of the National Library of Canada cataloging in publication service, because one can see on the verso statement on the book's title page that the work "Contains an index." In reality, it is simply a list of recipe titles presented in alphabetical order. The table of contents presents them again, arranged by heading, for example, Ode to the tomato, Cinderella's Coach, Cicero's Wart, or contempt for the chick-pea, etc. Poetical but not practical. The recipe titles are more practical, but even so, it's necessary to figure out the first word. So, mustards happen to be together because their names all begin with Mustard . . . , etc. And, it would have been necessary for me to look under Loin to find the two recipes offered for pork loin, tucked between the recipes for codfish fillets and herring fillets. Other recipes are separated because of language: New York Cheesecake and Chocolate Cheesecake.

On the other hand, the table of contents is useful enough as an index for ingredients, once you find a good heading. The one titled Fall into the apples! is a good example. The eight recipe titles are scattered about the alphabet (Quail with apples, Partridge with cabbage, Russian smoked herring fillets, etc.), but all contain apples, although the latter ones aren't obvious in the ingredient list. In the end, there really isn't an ingredient list either.

All the same, I wouldn't want to stress the gaps in the structure of this book's search tools too much, since, in most respects, it has a lot of good qualities, in particular, the Pinard flavor, which permeates the pages and makes your mouth water at the mere reading of his advice, his remarks, and his recipes. This book requires, perhaps, a less hurried approach than one used by those who need an index. Perhaps the necessary approach is to read the text quietly in order to successfully find the recipes. This work isn't an encyclopedia, either, like Jehane Benoit's large book. All the same, it seems to me that an index is always an advantage in a cookbook. In the present case, the lack of an index doesn't keep me from benefiting from the book's contents. But this evening, pressed for time, we ended up eating the pork loin from Jehane Benoit. With Pinardises, it would be necessary to find the recipe, then go to the grocery. The only danger is that I will end up enjoying speaking about cooking. I must think of my reputation!