Sunday, March 24, 2013

Le Cuisinier Royal, (1834~1835?)

If I look back at my life, though I'm not trying to be an arrogant snob here, I must say that I seem to have been good at most everything that I put my hands on. (except for physical things. I had a severe asthma. An excuse?.. probably.) I’ve never quite have been the best, unfortunately, but always excelled well beyond the standard. Good consistent grades at school, enough musical skills to get into competitions, natural ability to draw, paint, sculpt and build anything without much instruction, and I even was good at singing and acting. But there is one thing that I never can get my head around, - cooking. I suck at it. I totally, unequivocally suck at it. I have over a dozen cookbooks of various kind at home, giving me an illusion that I'd someday be a master of cooking, which never happened and never will. I'm just not a natural born cook. My taste buds must be 50% less than normal human beings', but I don't know what tastes good, first of all. If someone put dog food on a plate, nicely garnished like a fine dining meal, I'd say, "um, Most Delicious!" and would mean it, like an idiot. Secondly, I'm not a multi-tasker. I burn things because of it, and I hope my landlord isn't reading this. Thirdly, my head starts spinning with all those alien ingredients when reading cookbooks that I obsessively collect and ambivalently neglect. This is why I worship chefs. Chefs, who can do something that I can never do.

Recently, my master told me to talk to one of our clients in person, who's left us with several, old books on french cuisine. Master's schedule has been so up-to-neck that he decided to forward her books to me. She turned out to be a professional chef, (Ah! the Goddess!) and does actually use these books instead of just collecting them. This reminded me of one of Chef Heston Blumenthal's TV shows wherein he recreates ancient cuisines with his eccentric twists based on old manuscripts. (Yes, I'm into all those cooking TV shows. Also, I must confess, I have a secret crush on Chef Ramsay. ** I mean, British version of Chef Ramsay... He seems to be more "humane" in his native land..) I know firsthand that you have to go back to the roots if you want the excellence in any arts. And remember, just like what Chef Blumenthal does, old can be new!

Anyway, this is one of her books, Le Cuisinier Royal. It doesn't have a title page, so I don't know exactly which edition it is. But based on the "recycled" paper that was used for the spine reinforcement, it must have been published in 1834~1835? (As you probably know, we bookbinders don't throw away printer's overruns and mistakes. See the picture on the right.) This book needed a re-hinge, and internal cloth hinges to preserve the marble endpapers. Also, as the corners were so worn that I suggested to do a set of leather corners instead of just reinforcing them with glue. (Someone tried to patch-up the corners with green tapes, so it wasn't a good idea anyway, to keep them as they were.) One tricky thing was to match the exact color and texture of the new corner leather to the original spine leather. They had to perfectly match, or the new corners would look out of place. I think it turned out to be as if it were originally bound with corners. Whew!


  1. I have a similar problem with cooking, I can make a perfect lunch/dinner even if it's the first try, but I can't seem to "invent" something of my own, or add a new ingredient which would actually fit with the recipe :/ I can copy it, but nothing else, it seems.. And I always mess it up the second time, when I invite people over to try my new dish :D Been trying to learn something from Ramsay's Cooking course, though. The only thing I'm good at is cakes :D WHat are the recipes from this book like?

    Great job with the corners, by the way, didn't notice they where new till you mentioned them, guess that means they really fit with the overall look of the book :) How do you match the texture of the leather?

    1. Hi Igor,

      Ohhh Nooo, Your "problem" isn't similar to mine. Me, Can't Cook ANYTHING that's remotely edible to any human beings! If you eat my food, you gonna be like Jeana (a girl in this video, at about 2:00):

      I'm glad that you didn't notice that the corners were new! That's exactly what I wanted to hear! And how I match the texture of the leather? Humm, "experience" is all I can say. The book is in French, so I don't understand what's in it.. (Even if it was in English, I WOULDN'T understand it, anyway!)

  2. :D :D I often find that people who have a hard time cooking something right in fact don't know what it's supposed to look like when it's done, so it's either burned or raw. I was a nosey kid and wanted to know how everything's made so I used to watch my mother and grandmother cook.. later on it was merely practicing HOW to do stuff..

    Eh, experience, the elusive thing you can't find in a tutorial.. Just remembered something - did you ever have a customer who wanted you to make a new book look old, age it, like a leather bound book made a year ago look like it's a 150 years old? People are going nuts over "relic" or "road worn" electric guitars for instance - is there a similar proces with books?