Jacques Pépin
By: Tom Nealon | Categories: HiLo Heroes

More renowned these days for his enjoyable, if often middlebrow, work with Julia Child on PBS, Pépin (born 1935) wrote two books in the 1970s that have made ripples through haute cuisine ever since. La Technique (1976) and La Methode (1979) provide step-by-step directions for turning out even the most intimidating elements of French cuisine. In the latter half of the 19th century and into the 20th, Antoine Carême and Auguste Escoffier codified and made modular the disparate elements of haute cuisine, putting the finishing touches on three hundred years of delicious snobbery. Pépin reassembled these techniques (often reduced, strained and sautéed into abstrusion) and lined them up with photos for actual humans to use. Julia Child is justifiably lauded for bringing French cuisine to the masses of meatloaf stuffed Americans, but it was Pépin who showed us how to prepare it. Today, if there is a counterbalance to the excesses of molecular gastronomy — cooking with liquid nitrogen, mass spectrometers and centrifuges — it remains Pépin’s simple, but never dumbed-down instructions.

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Michael Moorcock.

READ MORE about members of the Anti-Anti-Utopian generation (1934-43).

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Tom Nealon owns and operates the used and rare bookstore Pazzo Books in the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Mass and runs the antiquarian food blog cruditas.