Friday, November 03, 2006

Béchamel sauce

Bechamel Sauce

Some might regard this as the triumph of tasteful over tasty. Perhaps this includes my new friends from Epifurious, who share my interest in old food photos. (Their Thanksgiving dinner shot from the Mondale Family Cookbook, link, is the sort of thing you might contemplate for hours.) But only ignorance of culinary history and practice could produce a true horror of béchamel (or of mayonnaise, its cold cousin in French white sauciness). Without béchamel we would have no proper tuna casserole, macaroni and cheese, moussaka, lasagne, chicken pot pie, and a hundred other classics I cannot live without. Just because some people make it badly doesn't mean it's always bad.

The photo might not make your mouth water. I don't think you're supposed to fantasize about breaking off a rib of celery and dunking it in. But the effort to show off this essential item deserves a little admiration.

The New Complete Book of Cookery (New York: Weathervane, 1970), page 49.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just talking about bechamel today, randomly.

I didn't have an appreciation for it until I made lasagne, and weirdly, of all steps, making a nice bechamel was the most difficult.

Few ingredients, few steps, but a delicate alchemy. One second it's a nice bechamel, the next second it's a gloopy, awful paste.

I resolved, at that moment, to learn more about these disarmingly simple-sounding culinary basics.

I think the image is delightful. Centered amongst a bounty of basic vegetable ingredients, it suggests bechamel's crucial place in the kitchen. The faceted gravy bowl, a suitably respectable conveyance. Yum!

5:08 PM  

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