When a book sets its scene describing France’s hearty approach to food it’s easy to keep reading.
“In France dining is meant to be a special, pleasurable part of the day; food offers not only fuel for the body but also a connection – between the people who have joined you at the table, between the generations who have shared a recipe, between the terroir (the earth) and the culture and cuisine that have sprung from it …”
Journalist and an American diplomat’s wife, Ann Mah, penned the Mastering the Art of French Eating – Lessons in Food and Love in Paris in response to her husband’s deployment to Iraq. What she thought was going to be a year of romantic dinners and hand-held promenades along the Seine when her husband was originally posted to Paris, quickly turned into a lonely place for one … a bit like being stood up at a restaurant.
However, rather than crying into her soupe l’onion, the passionate foodie drew on the inspiration of former diplomatic wife and author of the famed The Art of French Cooking, Julia Childs, and immersed herself in the love affair France has with food. With the forensic passion of a sleuth reporter, Ann peels back the layers of 10 signature dishes from 10 different regions starting with the national dish Steak Frite in Paris, leading to crepes in Brittany, the pistou of Provence and uncovering the origins of Burgundy’s boeuf bourguignon and its true flavoursome story.
Did you know families in Brittany had special days for eating crepes? Or that Lyon is considered the world capital of gastronomy because of the ‘Meres Lyonnaises’, the female cooks of the grand bourgeois homes who produced a few meals perfectly before they lost their jobs after World War 1 and opened their own “bouchons” … or that men dress up in special costumes and devote societies to the cassoulet and many other dishes for that matter?
Like the cassoulet, the book is assembled and layered with moorish chunks of information that are basted with sauces of interesting facts and anecdotes, where the regions, like ingredients, are still individual but drawn together through a rich delicious and very personal narrative about Ann’s life, fears and loves. It’s not only a great read, it’s a fab travel companion and food compendium.
“Pork is considered a vegetable that should be eaten with everything,” … local Lyonnaise epicurian Christian Proton.
To go in the draw to win a copy of Mastering the Art of French Eating simply leave a comment below. Or you can buy a copy of the book here at Spirited Mama.
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