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Getting to the Meat of the Matter: Bones

April 11, 1985|ROSE DOSTI | Times Staff Writer

My penchant for chewing on bones has been an embarrassment to everyone but me. Give me a pile of Tony Roma rib bones and I am in heaven. My husband once left the table, never to return. I didn't even noticed.

He refuses to dine with me if I order a veal chop, whose large, thick, juicy bone I adore, or, worse yet, lamb chops, which usually come three or four to a plate. Forget osso buco . I am forbidden to utter those two words.

I am a carnivore, plain and simple.

And guess what? Carnivores are in.

This is the year of the bones.

Who says? Paul Bocuse, of all people, the father of boneless nouvelle cuisine.

There he was at Max Au Triangle restaurant in Beverly Hills, wiping his plate squeaky clean with a piece of French bread the way they do in French films. Fingers, no fork. Not a single dribble of sauce was left on his plate when he got through. Actually, I didn't blame him. The sauce he was sopping up was a superb beurre blanc with truffles under tender slices of boneless Dover sole.

Bocuse was expounding--as many Frenchmen tend to do when they converse--on the evolution of nouvelle cuisine, a culinary movement for which, by the way, he takes no credit.

"We have been misinformed, Monsieur? " I asked with alarm.

"But of course," he said. "I had nothing to do with nouvelle cuisine except that I am a chef-owner of a restaurant, which seemed to be the basis of the nouvelle cuisine roster of chefs. The term nouvelle cuisine was a Gault et Millau invention, no one else's," he said. "The era started when chefs came out of the kitchen into the dining room; when they started to take charge."

And all this time I and hundreds of other writers on the subject of nouvelle cuisine have been crediting Bocuse, among a handful of other culinary gurus, for having brought "new," light, bright, picture-perfect French cooking to the world of cuisine; pretty plates with raspberries all in a row. That sort of thing.

"But I thought you were the father of nouvelle cuisine," I said.

"You are wrong," Bocuse said. "I am a traditional chef. I have been doing traditional French cooking all my professional life. Actually, nouvelle cuisine means different things to different people. It is a very, very complicated subject. Let it suffice to say that journalists who were always looking for something new to write about helped promote the concept. When they talk about nouvelle cuisine they mean anything that is new: new vegetables, new cheese, New York, New Jersey. . . ." Now he was being silly.

Even such influences as Japanese-style cooking, which became associated with nouvelle cuisine, have not changed the basic nature of French cooking, Bocuse claimed. "Everyone is turning more and more to traditional cooking in France. That's the 'new' trend."

"Beyond that?" I asked the culinary guru.

Bocuse gave a Gallic shrug. "The point is," Bocuse said, taking his bread to the garlic mousse, which had been served as a bed for the delicately fanned slices of boneless saddle of lamb (the third course of Joachim Splichal's nouvelle cuisine meal) "nouvelle cuisine has undergone numerous 'epochs' in its evolutionary development: There has been the epoch of the rutabaga, epoch of the puree, the kiwi, and now the epoch of the bones--of traditional cooking. Bones are extremely important to traditional cooking. Bones add flavor to foods," he said.

"And eating them?" I asked, tears of joy welling up.

"Certainement, " Bocuse said.

"Then it is no longer gauche to gnaw on bones in public?" I asked, wiping away a teardrop that fell on the rim of my glass filled with a lovely Pommery Brut Rose Champagne. "Does that mean I'm 'in,' at last? Now I can eat bones undauntedly? Without worry? Without a divorce?"

"Naturellement, " said Bocuse, rising to fetch a handful of some of his newly printed menus featuring "traditional" French cooking--the cooking he claims to have always cooked even when the world thought it was "nouvelle." Bocuse, incidentally, still runs his restaurant near Lyon, as well as two French restaurants in Orlando, Fla., with colleagues Gaston le Notre and Roger Verge. In Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto, there are Bocuse food boutiques selling prime-quality Bocuse jams and teas as well as Bocuse wine and Cognac. Bocuse divides his time among the international ventures with unceasing energy.

The cover of the menu for his restaurant shows Bocuse, toque askew, carrying a carved out pumpkin. He is flanked on the left by Michel, the farmer who actually operates the farm that produces the fresh vegetables used in his traditional French cooking, and, on the right, by his Madagascan) car hop wearing a bell-boy's uniform and cap bearing the name, Paul Bocuse, and holding a bouquet of flowers.

"Where's the bone?" I asked, glancing at the menu.

A Boneless Menu

No bones on this traditional menu.

"Try my new book, 'Paul Bocuse in Your Kitchen,' (Pantheon: $18.95). Page 210."

"Thanks, Bocuse," I said, mentally slapping a marker on the page.

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