Monday, January 12, 2015

Provence, 1970 by Luke Barr

Provence is one of those places that I know is more beautiful than what I can possibly imagine.  And Provence, 1970 by Luke Barr confirmed not only the loveliness of this special part of France, but tossed in some of the most famous chefs and food writers at the time to create a snapshot of a crucial turning of the wheel in American food culture.  

Paul and Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, Simone Beck, James Beard, and Richard Olney all were in Provence during December, 1970.  The Childs were settling into their home away from home, La Pitchoune.  Simone Beck and her husband were arriving shortly, and M.F.K. Fisher was revisiting her favorite places in France.  James Beard was at a nearby clinic trying to lose weight, and failing miserably. Richard Olney lived in Provence, in a small home perched on a hillside, growing vegetables and creating gorgeous dishes out of local foods.  Each person was a giant in food culture, and riding the wave of French food popularity in America.   

But none of them were really very happy.  America was experiencing growing pains:  Vietnam, the Civil-Rights movement, music, culture--you name it, America was shifting.  Each of these people felt it, and this moment in time:  Provence in December, 1970 was when they would all gather to eat, talk, and drink.  And in those moments of argument, laughter, dislike, creativity, and passionate debates, a movement away from the influence of French cooking began for America.  It was also a moment of realization for many of them on how they wanted to move onwards, bring new ideas to the world of food, and put to bed memories and ways of thinking that didn't serve a purpose in this new world.  

Don't get me wrong.  This book is chock-full of gorgeous food, drink, and views.  It is more than just a food book, and as you read it you'll realize this.  It is a book of contemplation, one that makes you look at the world around you and how we all got to 2015.  It makes you look at things you hold onto, and probably should let go.  It gives you a breath of fresh air, and lets ideas percolate in your mind.  And it is a love letter to a time and place that doesn't exist anymore.  

Luke Barr based this memoir on his Great Aunt M.F.K. Fisher's green notebooks, which she kept while in France in 1970.  He clearly admired his Aunt, and her ability to move forward into a new life in her 60's.  Paul and Julia Child are so alive in this memoir, it's hard to imagine them both gone.  Sadly, they're all gone.  So take some time, grab a bottle of wine, some bread and cheese, and read this lovely memoir.  Then make yourself a wonderful supper.  This memoir certainly had me thinking about food, how to prepare it, and the care we should all take in feeding not only our bodies but our souls.  

Rating:  8/10 for a memoir that  brings each memorable person fully alive, and incredible food descriptions that make your mouth water.  You will never look at food quite the same again.

Available in Hardcover, paperback, and e-book.

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