Advice to Modern Cooks

People ask me if I have tried out all the recipes in this book. The simple answer is no, but those that I have tried have worked well. My job has been to translate the recipes, not to modernize them, which is an entirely different task. Most of Molokhovets’ recipes are straightforward and can be prepared readily in today’s kitchen, but some, such as the instructions for making wheat starch (#2269), are of purely historical interest. We need to know how these older processes were carried out but, thank goodness, we need not repeat them. Nor is the idea of stringing an eel up by its eyes (#928) very appealing. I am quite content to begin my work with an eel that I know less intimately, one that has been skinned and cleaned by the fishmonger. Between the extremes of, on the one hand, recipes that require little or no adaptation and, on the other hand, those that are impractical or impossible to execute in contemporary conditions, there is another group that challenges a cook’s ingenuity. Mostly these involve antiquated techniques. The cook who attempts to modernize a recipe should read it very carefully, envisioning the entire process and trying to understand the rationale for each step. Measurements are an important issue. Most of them are straightforward, but two, namely “pound” and “spoon,” are “false friends” in that they do not really mean what they seem. Cooks should consult the Table of Weights and Measures before embarking on any recipe.