Simone Beck

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Simone "Simca" Beck (7 July 1904 in Normandy, France – 20 December 1991) was a French cookbook author and cooking teacher who, along with colleagues Julia Child and Louisette Bertholle, played a significant role in the introduction of French cooking technique and recipes into American kitchens.[1]

Biography[edit]

Except for a few years spent learning bookbinding and a brief career as a sales representative for the family silicate business, through which she met her second husband, Beck's career was devoted to food. As a young girl, she enjoyed helping the family cook, occasionally preparing desserts or even entire meals. In 1933, as her marriage to Jacques Jarlaud was coming to an end, she began to take classes at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She married Jean Victor Fischbacher in 1937, retaining her maiden name as a nom de plume and professionally, but using her husband's name socially.

Beck's professional career as a cook and teacher began after World War II, and after she had joined the Le Cercle des Gourmettes, an exclusive women's culinary club. As her experience and responsibilities as a member of the club increased, Beck found herself increasingly involved in the culinary world. Louisette Bertholle inspired her to write a cookbook for Americans and her husband encouraged her. After an unsuccessful attempt at writing a full-length cookbook, Beck and Bertholle published the brief What's Cooking in France? in 1952. This was followed by the booklet Le pruneau devant le fourneau: Recettes de cuisine (ca. 1952), Beck's only publication in French (for a copy, see Avis DeVoto Papers, A-167, #36). After Beck met Julia Child in 1949, the idea of writing a French cookbook for Americans was rekindled. She, Child, and Bertholle wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking; it was published in 1961. Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. II (without Louisette Bertholle) followed in 1970, elaborating on several subjects (particularly baking and charcuterie) that the authors felt had received insufficient coverage in the first volume.

Both Bertholle and Child became members of the Cercle des Gourmettes. Within a few years of meeting, the three women formed l'École des trois gourmandes to give lessons in French cooking to American women living in Paris. The school continued, on and off, into the late 1970s, and Beck and Child would continue to wear the school's badge on TV and in publicity photos for years to follow. While Child became a successful television chef in the United States, Beck continued teaching at home. Some of her students were already successful chefs; others became well-known chefs. In 1972 she published her own cookbook, Simca's Cuisine (with Patricia Simon), using, among others, some of the recipes that had not been included in her previous books with Child and Bertholle. She published the second volume, New Menus from Simca's Cuisine, in 1979 with Michael James, her student, friend, and assistant since 1970. Food and Friends: Recipes and Memories from Simca's Cuisine, her autobiography and last cookbook (with Suzy Patterson), was published in 1991, the year of her death.

She is played by American actress Linda Emond in the 2009 film Julie & Julia.

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