Monday, January 21, 2008

TV Cook, Number One.

January 21

The whole TV celebrity chef thing started on this day in 1937 when the French restaurateur Marcel Boulestin demonstrated how to make an omelette on the BBC program Cook’s Night Out.

His full name was Xavier Marcel Boulestin (1878-1943), and he was a man of many and varied talents. His obituary in The Times described him as ‘music critic, novelist, both in French and English, actor, caricaturist, designer and decorator, broadcaster and restaurateur’ whose cookery lessons by television ‘were greatly helped by the expressiveness of his face and of his gestures.’

Boulestin must have been a man of great stamina too. He wrote for Vogue magazine, taught cookery at Fortnum & Mason, and wrote three books - Simple French Cooking for English Homes, What Shall We Have Today, and The Conduct of the Kitchen. He also found time to run his restaurant: in 1925 it was the Restaurant Fran├žais in Leicester Square, and two years later he moved to Covent Garden and opened the Restaurant Boulestin.

Sadly, the details and transcript of that first program no longer exist, or so I am told. I wonder why Boulestin chose an omelette to cook for his first show? Because it is so simple anyone can do it, or because it is so tricky it is difficult to get it just right? He certainly chose a classic, with no international boundaries, and a long history. The word was originally ‘amulet’, from the same word used to mean a thin plate such as the blade of a sword or knife – so the same origin as ‘laminate’ and ‘lamina’.

By some terrible oversight, I don’t have a single one of Boulestin’s cookbooks, but it hardly matters as the following recipe for a 'lamina of eggs' proves that some things have not changed for centuries. I could have picked an earlier version, but this early eighteenth century recipe is just fine: the only concession to the era is the final flourish of verjuice, butter, and sugar.

Amulet, to make.
Take twelve Eggs, beat them and strain them, put to them three or four spoonfuls of Cream, then put in a little Salt, and having your frying-pan ready with some Butter very hot, pour it in, and when you have fryed it a little, turn over both sides into the middle; then turn it on the other side, and when it is fryed, serve it on the Table with Verjuice, Butter, and Sugar.
From: Salmon, William. The family dicitionary, or houshold companion …. 1710.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Much Depends on Dinner.

Quotation for the Day …

Do not be afraid to talk about food. Food which is worth eating is worth discussing. And there is the occult power of words which somehow will develop its qualities. Marcel Boulestin


lamidave said...

Television? 1937???

Anonymous said...

Love the quote of the day. Oh, you must know how Italians love to talk about food! And it's ALL worth talking about :) Thanks for writing this blog. I love it!

The Old Foodie said...

Hello - Yes David, television. And I have been reliably informed that there may have been a cooking person on BBC in 1936 - although it may have been a cooking hints/advice program rather than a cookery demonstration.

Maryanne - thankyou for your kind words. I like talking (and writing) about food almost as much as cooking and eating it.