Review: PROVENCE, 1970: M. F. K. FISHER, JULIA CHILD, JAMES BEARD, AND THE REINVENTION OF AMERICAN TASTE by Luke Barr

provence 1970Provence, 1970 puts us around the table with M. F. K. Fisher, Julia and Paul Child, James Beard, and other notable foodies from last century. These iconic American chefs and authors were all in southern France during the winter of 1970 and found their way together to cook, talk, and gossip. In the process, according to author Luke Barr, they articulated a new way of thinking about the influence of French cooking on American tastes and culinary practices. Barr, the grandson of M. F. K. Fisher’s sister, and editor at Travel + Leisure, charmingly renders his great-aunt and Julia Child in all of their nobly idiosyncratic splendor. My favorite anecdote features Julia preparing two large geese for Christmas dinner and involves her straddling them on the kitchen floor while winching out their leg tendons with a broomstick. The sensory descriptions of the food and places in Provence, 1970 are sumptuous, and the relationships between the primary and secondary figures in the narrative are explained respectfully but charged with conflict as American practicality collides with French “snobbery.” I thoroughly enjoyed every sentence of Provence, 1970 as it made me think about the ways life’s quality is affected by how we prepare and consume food, maintain friendships, and move through the world.

Provence, 1970 is scheduled for publication on October 22, 2013 from Clarkson Potter.

(Cross-posted in slightly different form on Goodreads.com.)

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