Richard Olney’s “Simple French Food”

I’m reading the 40th anniversary edition of Richard Olney’s Simple French Food and it strikes me that, even in 1974, people were writing and complaining about the decline of home cooking and the rise of commercially prepared food. “Simple food” discussions, notes about people selling food at the market describing the food as “untreated”, the distinction of eggs coming from grain-fed chickens; all of these topics could easily be found being discussed today. To see the same discussion happening 40 years ago, in France no less, is mind boggling to me.

In the new introduction for this volume Mark Bittman briefly mentions how Olney rubbed people the wrong way. Given how he writes the preface to the book that doesn’t surprise me. He certainly is opinionated. Maybe for good reason. He seemed to be afraid of the decline of French country cooking.

Olney died in 1999 and it makes me wonder of he’d be surprised that the same ideas that graced the preface of his book are still being discussed today.

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