The Untold Truth of Simca Beck

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The book the three women wrote was a huge undertaking. Their magnum opus was the highly influential “Mastering the Art of French Cuisine”. In it, they demystified French cuisine for readers and pulled back the curtain on how many classic dishes were prepared, even if some of them were a bit complicated.

The extensive testing process they insisted on for each recipe meant that the huge book came together very slowly. Child’s husband, Paul Child, an American diplomat, was transferred, first to Marseilles – in the south of France – then to Norway and Germany. Consequently, much of the writing and correspondence was done remotely, as Beck and Child tirelessly tested recipes and diligently took notes and mailed them.

When the book came out, it was an instant phenomenon. No other English book at the time spoke with such detail and authority, patiently guiding a beginner through the intricacies of French cooking. The cuisine and culture of France were particularly in vogue at the time, and an inquisitive and receptive audience bought into each successive printing of the book. It remains in print to this day, and the Telegraph named it the second best cookbook of all time.

Women joined the nascent culinary scene of the time, populated by the likes of influential New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne and endless scholar James Beard.

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