in the kitchen with the marquise of parabere    We live in the age of Michelin stars or pre-cooked food. We use our own kitchens less and less and we're worse and worse cooks. Thick covered cook books with beautiful pictures and minimal design are perfect for putting on our shelves at home while we heat our daily food in the microwave. But there is another type of cookery that removes itself from textures, flavour and gastro-philosophy, and it's not one that suggests huge meals of steak, either. And this cookery can be seen, amongst other places, in two classic books: The Marquise of Parabere's books.

The pompously titled Marquise of Parabere's Culinary Encyclopedia consists of two collections: The Complete Kitchen and Cake Making and Bakery. The first edition was published in 1933, but the two red and cream-coloured books we know today did not come out until 1940. They are, in the main, recipe books, but they're a long way from today's pompous books. First, The Complete Kitchen, the main book. Here, as well as talking about ingredients, the author tells us about different utensils, cleaning up, history and organization. In the more than 1,500 pages of the book, the Marquise of Parebere offers us different types of recipes: starting with traditional recipes, there are daily lunches and also recipes for special occasions. As time has gone by, gastronomy has changed, in the same way that technology and ingredients have, but the Marquise of Parabere's recipes are still contemporary. Why? As well as the contemporary gastronomic concepts ofthe over-dose and small plates, because the Marquise of Parabere's recipes are delicious and flavoursome.

The marquise's biography
María Manuela Eugenia Carolina Mestayer Jaquet was born in Bilbao on the 20th of December, 1877. She was the daughter of a French banking and diplomatic family. She grew up in Seville and Bilbao and got married to lawyer Ramón Echagüe y Churruca at Begoña church. The press of the day gave ample coverage to the wedding. Although they had servants at home, cooking was her greatest hobby and she was in touch with the most famous cooks of the day. As the mother of eight children, she had expert gastronomic tasters at home. In 1936, and against her husband's will, she went to Madrid with two of her daughters and one of her sons and opened a restaurant. She achieved fame, but this was short-lived as she had to close the restaurant as soon as the Spanish Civil War broke out. In 1941 her husband died and she opened another restaurant along with all her sons. She made it work by making use of smuggled goods from France and by cheating on rationing. But, in the end, she couldn't win that war either, and had to close "Parabere" Restaurant. But she wasn't a lady to be put off, and started writing what she had learnt during those years. The two books we've mentioned were her greatest success. The Marquise of Parabere died in 1949.