Reviews

French Roots, by Jean-Pierre Moullé & Denise Lurton Moullé, inspires gracious hospitality

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French Roots: Two cooks, two countries & the beautiful food along the way (list price $35 U.S. / $41.00 CAN) is a book (of cooking essays and recipes) that works like a time-traveling magic carpet to transport me between the San Francisco Bay Area and Bordeaux, sometimes to both places and multiple years at once.

The authors met in Berkley in 1980 when he was the executive chef at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse, and she was a French expat living in the Bay Area. Six months later they were married. The writing, the pictures and the recipes are inspired by (French) rural Old World traditions, infused with (American) flexibility and creativity. It is a “sensibility that is tied up with frugality as much as it is tied to a deep respect for food as a valuable, nearly sacred, part of life” (p 2).

As a physical object — cover, size, weight, design & photos — this book is like a fine French pastry, elegant and enticing. It’s a book you nibble at, you don’t wolf it down in one big gulp because you want to prolong the pleasure.

So, obviously, I like this book. But will you?

I predict you’ll like French Roots if:

  • You enjoy growing food, planning parties, and preparing and serving gracious meals;
  • you embrace a philosophy of all things in moderation (meaning you don’t have myriad food restriction and you will have a glass of wine with dinner);
  • you’re at least somewhat of a francophile;
  • you’re an adventurous eater who will happily sample oysters, rabbit, steak tartare and cream of young turnip soup with turnip greens and cured ham;
  • and your idea of a perfect vacation involves a long idyll at a country house in Bordeaux.

I predict you won’t like this book if:

  • you find cooking a drudgery and if you must cook you want easy-peasy recipes to get you in and out of the kitchen asap;
  • you’re a teetotaler;
  • you’re a vegetarian;
  • you’re a francophobe;
  • and your idea of a perfect vacation involves Six Flags, Nascar, a rodeo and the Iowa State Fair.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We can still be friends even if you wouldn’t like this book. I love quite a few non-cooking, teetotaler, vegetarian, French-detesting, amusement park enthusiasts. I’m just trying to provide an honest, hopefully accurate (although admittedly opinionated) book review.

We can dislike what each other likes and still like each other, right? Please make the world a better place by spreading the word about that!

For me, French Roots inspires the practice of gracious hospitality. And here’s my definition of that:

Gracious hospitality happens when you induce guests to believe  you were born with an ingenious ability to make them feel comfortable, comforted and appreciated; and it appears to be a talent which not only costs you little effort, it also gives you even greater pleasure than it gives your guests.

Have you ever experienced gracious hospitality? Who provided it? 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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24 thoughts on “French Roots, by Jean-Pierre Moullé & Denise Lurton Moullé, inspires gracious hospitality”

  1. This sounds like a wonderful book that I would truly enjoy Tracy! Thank you for sharing with us 🙂 Although I will admit that I do enjoy a good state/county fair as a part of any vacation 🙂 Who doesn’t love Sweet Martha’s cookies and a pronto pup from the MN State fair?!

  2. I seem to fall into both categories of your predictions, Tracy. Everything in the top one except the first point; nothing in the second EXCEPT your first point.
    I’ve often experienced gracious hospitality and hope that I give it in return – even though the cooking to me is a chore, I love the company and sitting around a laden table, chatting.

  3. That sounds like a book I would enjoy, though I probably wouldn’t cook from it very often because of my low energy. Have you read The Secrets of Pistoulet by Jana Kolpen? It’s more of story than a recipe book, but it is my favorite.

    1. I’m fortunate TGIYP, that my husband does at least half, if not more, of the kitchen work in this house. And we tag-team most meals, because I don’t often have enough energy to bring up an entire meal.

      I haven’t read the Secrets of Pistoulet, but I’m going to look for it. Thanks for the recommendation; I’m always looking for a good book to read.

  4. This sounds like a great book. Executive chef at Chez Panisse: that’s a serious food pedigree. I love the jacket design. I would be seriously tempted to buy the book except my small (very) kitchen is over run with cook books and I really must try not to add any more to my collection. 😉

    1. I understand the over run with cookbooks. Every few years, I clean out my stock and sell or give away all the cookbooks I haven’t used since the last clean-out. And now, I borrow them from the library for 3-6 weeks, to see whether I really, really love them, before I invest in them.

      I do like this one, a lot.

  5. Tracy,
    I have to admit that I love reading cook books. I have just finished for the third or fourth time one by Daniel Boulud. My Bride thinks that I should cook more often instead of just reading recipes. Eventually I may, of course a glass of wine goes great when studying a cookbook

    1. I, too, find great pleasure in reading, and rereading cookbooks. Which of Boulud’s books is enticing enough for a triple-quadruple read? I’d like to get my hands on a copy of it.

      P.S. Your Bride is right, as always. And a glass of wine goes great while cooking from a good cookbook, too! 😉

      1. Tracy,
        I cherish this book with it’s inscription and autograph from the author, and the book is Cafe Boulud Cookbook. I bought it the evening we had dinner in Daniel on 9 September 2000. Ah sweet memories. And I do agree that a glass of wine does help in kitchen.
        – John

  6. The title, sub-title and book cover make me want this book, and your details REALLY make me want it. I inherited my mother-in-law’s love of having and reading cook books, and my mother’s love of actually trying recipes and then building on them to create her own.

    1. Sounds like me — except I’m not sure from where I inherited the love of cookbooks and cooking. Neither loves are a family trait before my generation. But my brother inherited the same cooking/booking genes.

  7. Tracy … You had me at French food. So I probably would like this book. Also the idea of travelling thru Bordeaux country – with or without a glass of wine at the ready – sounds like a marvelous way to go. Part of my heritage includes French roots – another reason I’d warm to this book. 😉

    1. Have you been to France, Judy? I’ve had a couple of lovely vacations in Paris, but these days it’s easier to slip away to Quebec to find a bit of French immersion.

      I do think you’d like the book….

  8. Yep, sounds like me!! And this looks like a delicious treat but then again, I’d break my promise to stop buying cookbooks..have a bookcase full of them and mostly yes, of course European – French cuisine (also a lot Asian). My roots have been indulged in the sweetness of La Douce France..lots of vacation memories from my childhood and later after I got married we actually got to live their for 5 years. A second home 🙂
    Bon appétit ma belle!

  9. Tracy, this is a great review. So clear, opinionated, gracious, and witty. I think I fall into the category of not needing this book, although I am sure I would admire it. I recently enjoyed three breakfasts in The Bishop’s Hall that would fit anyone’s definition of perfection. I enjoyed them to the last morsel — even blogged about them.

    It isn’t my love of Nascar that gets in the way of French cooking. Rather, I prefer to make a few plain and hearty meals that I know how to cook well. Fortunately, my husband feels the same way and makes his share of the meals. I have a small collection of cookbooks, mostly community ones from family and friends. But j’adore adventurous eating and have tried rabbit, escargot, goat, etc.

    I would rather read a good memoir than a good cookbook. C’est la vie!

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