Bryan Lowder of Slate reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
Last fall, the food-loving world celebrated what would have been the 100th birthday of Julia Child, America's most famous champion of French cuisine. That anniversary, following on the heels of Meryl Streep's buoyant portrayal of Child in Julia and Julia, has led to the publication of a number of great books on both the French chef herself and her proto-foodie milieu. This week, we'll feast on two of the freshest.
First up is Luke Barr's delicious portrait of a pivotal historical moment, "Provence, 1970," out this month from Clarkson Potter. During the holiday season of that year, a heady mix of professional ambition and serendipitous travel plans brought together the most important figures in the young American food scene in the storied landscape of Provence. Julia and her husband Paul were there, as were Simone Beck, James Beard, Richard Olney, Judith Jones, and, most importantly, Barr's great-aunt, the beloved food writer M.F.K. Fisher.
Much of Barr's sensuous narrative is drawn from Fisher's diaries and correspondence, lending his account a healthy dose of both intimacy and gossip. But "Provence, 1970" isn't just a treat; it's also a hearty origin story of the fresh, local, French-inflected-yet-American style of cooking we all enjoy today.
For a second helping of culinary recollection, check out Anne Willan's charming memoir "One Soufflé at a Time," recently published by St. Martin's. After a home-cooked childhood in the English countryside, Willan founded the La Varenne Cooking School across the Channel, where she trained thousands of students in the fine art of French cooking. Her warm stories are peppered with many of the same figures as "Provence, 1970," as well as mouth-watering recipes from throughout her life.
For more tasty titles, check out the Slate Book Review at slate.com/books.