December 17, 2001 | Ask Gael
Am I imagining it, or are you getting thinner?

         Ummm. Indeed, I'm reading more and eating less . . . voluptuous cookbooks seem to dim all sorts of cravings. Creamy, crunchy, nutty, and chocolate are my four essential food groups. So the caramelly tarte Grenobloise in Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herm (Little, Brown; $40) is cosmically fulfilling. I like the concept of pushy, competitive cookbook writers convening to debate the ultimate lemon curd and other classic indulgences culminating in The Baker's Dozen Cookbook (William Morrow; $40). As for Second Helpings From Union Square Cafe (HarperCollins; $35), it tickles more if you know the cast of characters in the silly snapshots. If not, total immersion in the braised short ribs will do. Mai Pham's Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table (HarperCollins; $27.50) and Zarela's Veracruz (Houghton Mifflin; $35) deliver fantasy voyages as well as phantom calories. The Chefs of the Times in hardcover (St. Martin's Press; $35) is a definite keeper, so I can toss out a tangle of wrinkled clippings. And I hope Santa brings me Julia Child's remastered Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Knopf; $40) to park beside my butter-splotched first edition.

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