Books: Chefs de Tout: A Cookbook Quartet

FOR years the patience of American cooks has been most perversely tried. Despite the fact that cookbooks sell by the hundreds of thousands and bring in millions of dollars, the instructions they offer the reader are too often vague, ambiguous or simply nonexistent.

Exotic excursions into odd corners of cookery have some license to charm rather than instruct. But a working cookbook should be a textbook. It requires patient research, decent expository prose, and—on the publisher's part—painstaking work on editing and layout. Most cookbooks seem to aim solely for brevity. Beat the eggs with the sugar simply will not do unless it...

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