Downie (A Passion for Paris) blends exhaustive research and personal experience in this delightful history of one of the culinary capitals of the world. The acclaimed food and travel writer packs in 92 breezy essays that cover topics ranging from pre-Christian times up through the nouvelle cuisine of the 1970s and the alleged decline of present-day French cuisine. Downie expands on dozens of topics, including the French fascination with foie gras, the Sweeney Todd legend (which was based on real events in Paris “in which the barber and the meat pie maker next door carry on a gruesome trade”), and the origins of the country’s love for food. He shares primary documents such as the menu at Queen Catarina’s 1549 coronation and the original 1691 crème brûlée recipe, and explores the influences of a wide and entertaining array of historical figures including the gluttonous Louis XIV, the prerevolutionary potato promoter Parmentier, and medieval cookbook author Taillevent. Most impressively, Downie relishes in debunking myths about French culinary exceptionalism (Curnonsky, one of Paris’s best-known gastronomists in the early 20th century, “only got into the gastro-journalism racket after a taste-bud-stimulating voyage to China”) while unabashedly proclaiming his adoration for French culture and history in and out of the kitchen. Readers don’t have to be foodies to get the flavor of the French character in this delightful, thoroughly researched culinary history. Photos. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 10/16/2017 Release date: 09/01/2017 Genre: Nonfiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.