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.