Le Livre Blanc
Written by Hannah of Rise and Shine.
Imagine coming off a slow cooker recipe book review, which inspired a batch of old fashioned rice pudding baked in mason jars. Right up my alley with the way I’ve been cooking these days, it being fall and all, and a busy one at that. Then this book arrives in the mail; Le Livre Blanc (translation “white paper”) by Anne-Sophie Pic. It is stunning before you even crack the spine… the weight of it in your hands, in its crisp white box and hard cover, with its gold lined pages and silver page marking ribbons. A quick flip through the interior and you can see this book is ethereal, sophisticated, modern and innovative. You are immediately befuddled and amazed by the gorgeous photos of ingredients and dishes that you possibly can’t correctly identify and almost certainly have never and may never eat in your lifetime. If you’re looking for a traditional recipe book to inspire dinner ideas, even if you are a foodie, this book is probably not what you have in mind. If you are a collector of fine things and you love food, especially modern foods such as those you’d make a date to eat at some far away restaurant a year in advance, this book might deserve a place on your shelf.
I am not averse to fine art or the concept of it, so I think I can wrap my head around this book and its author, Anne-Sophie Pic. If this review has captured your interest, maybe you’ve heard of her? She happens to be the only female 3 star chef in France and she comes from a legendary family of chefs whose restaurants have been considered a “gastronomic place of pilgrimage” since the early 1900’s. Despite the history of Anne-Sophie’s restaurant, Pic, and the wealth of knowledge she and her palette must have developed over the years, you won’t sense an old-world nostalgia in this book. Anne-Sophie is a fine artist creating on the edge of modern trends. Part fine artist and part chemist, it seems, as she and her team work in a glass walled studio/lab at her adjoining cookery school, testing and fine tuning recipe ideas. And as any modern artist might be quoted as saying or at the least thinking, she admits “I hate anything that’s already been done.” I was relieved to hear her counter this by stating that she is “careful not to allow science to become more important than food” and that “originality is not an end in itself.” From the foundation of the perfect product, Anne-Sophie creates delicate and rather constrained flavor pairings with a goal of surprising but not shocking the diner. This is what she works tirelessly on: creating these simple yet unfettered, transcendental flavor pairings.
It’s hard to imagine eating Anne-Sophie’s food. Probably, it’s an experience that makes your eyes roll, and in my case likely tear up a bit. I assume this purely based on the exquisite ingredients that her dishes begin with. It is clear from her recipes that the author lives and works near the sea and has the funds and connections to create from anything her heart desires.
Now when I say you probably won’t be cooking this at home, I really mean it. Besides the restaurant equipment you likely don’t have to accomplish various feats of molecular gastronomy (a term that I am guessing the author loathes, but it gives you an idea of what you’d be asked to accomplish here), there are ingredients in just about every recipe that you may not have access to without placing an internet order. A wealth of creatures from the sea that I’ve only seen on Google images: free-range pigeon, five specific distinctions of beetroot, aged rhum agricole, Fleur de Sel and Voatsiperifery pepper…and my favorite: dried powdered vintage Bora-Bora Tahitian vanilla. And something tells me substitutions simply won’t do these dishes justice. But just to look at the stunning photos in this book, identify what they are, and pour over a recipe that actually spells out how to make it is something I have never experienced. And the more I read through the book and soak it in, the more I love it. Even as a rough around the edges Minnesota girl, I actually know people that would love this book. And despite the fact that I’m a slow cooker kind of girl, I love it too.
The book's introduction by the way, is excellent. Be sure to read it. It brings a human quality to this book that might seem elitist at first glance. The photos in this book are out of this world and are taken by Michael Roulier. The book is published by Jacqui Small LLP and is available for purchase at a whopping $60 US dollars, though I would have to say, I deem it worthy.