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Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France Hardcover – June 23, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (June 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596913533
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596913530
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #636,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“[Au Revoir to All That] is an eye-opening, well-researched and amusingly written, reliable guide to the contemporary cooking scene in France, and it's to be hoped that French chefs somewhere will pay attention to Steinberger's neat formulation of the question – ‘Which way forward for French cuisine?’” —San Francisco Chronicle
 
"A culinary expedition through France hunting for the root of the slow decline of the country’s acclaimed food and wine traditions... Steinberger’s meticulous research and personal hunger for objective truths bring surprising discoveries to light... connected to the larger issue of who or what defines modern France and, by extension, its food. An offering of fresh and engaging insights for foodies and Francophiles alike."—Kirkus Reviews
 
"For anyone who cares about food, wine, or France... Au Revoir To All That is required reading. Steinberger has done remarkably thorough research to detail just what has gone wrong in French gastronomy. Drawing on astonishing tidbits like the identity of France's largest private sector employer (McDonald's), Steinberger convincingly explains why so many of its greatest chefs have grown complacent, its greatest gastronomic guide so off-track, and its winemakers just plain broke. In spite of all the bad news, the book is a ripping fun read and is even a little optimistic, as Steinberger points out a few key men and women bucking the trends." —FoodandWine.com
 
“In the true voice of a passionate Francophile... Steinberger's love for the country is tangible through his descriptions of the food he eats and remembers eating, and somehow it makes sense that he fell in love with his future wife over a French meal. It's not an adolescent love that Steinberger has for the country, but more like adoration mixed with a dose of reality.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
 
“Informative… [Steinberger’s] fascinating profiles of influential French chefs and restaurateurs include Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse, and the late Alain Chapel and Jean-Claude Vrinat of Taillevent in Paris…[an] excellent narrative.”  —Pittsburgh Tribune Review
 
"France once embodied the crowning glory of culinary art, but the most serious gastronomes today turn
increasingly elsewhere for inspiration. Because French food’s hegemony was simply assumed as little as
two decades ago, Steinberger marvels at this precipitous decline in Gallic reputation. His investigation
finds manifold causes for this state of affairs."  —Booklist

“One of the greatest books I’ve read.” —Marco Pierre White

"In Au Revoir To All That, Mike Steinberger pulls off the magic trick of throwing a funeral you want to go to: The elegy is unflinching but heartfelt and celebratory; the guests are the most interesting people; the food (and wine) couldn't get any better; and—get this—the deceased shows signs of rising again." — Benjamin Wallace, author of New York Times bestseller The Billionaire's Vinegar

"Au Revoir to All That is a fascinating and knowledgeable valedictory to the greatest food and wine culture the world has ever known. Michael Steinberger is a great gourmand and a great storyteller, and he will make you care about the fate of camembert and other endangered traditions." — Jay McInerney, author of A Hedonist in the Cellar and Bacchus & Me
 
"Most books on food and wine are misty-eyed memoirs of great meals and happy times. Michael Steinberger's book is different; he is trying to understand the decline and fall of France as the center of the world's great cuisine. In the course of his explorations, Steinberger takes us to the kitchens of great chefs, describes extraordinary food, and evokes fond memories. The result turns out to be intelligent, interesting and complicated. You will have to read the book to get it— and you will read it with much pleasure."— Fareed Zakaria, author of The Post-American World
 
"If you've ever wondered why eating in France is so often disapponting, Michael Steinberger can explain. His delicious account draws not just on his amazing gastronomic expertise, but on a sophisticated understanding of French politics and history as well. Three stars: this one really is worth a special trip." — Jacob Weisberg, author of The Bush Tragedy and editor of Slate
 
"When I started going to France in the early seventies, it was difficult to find a lousy meal over there. Now the exact opposite is true. How could a country with such an esthetically magnificent culture go wrong? Steinberger's penetrating report from a declining France resonates because he clearly loves the place and feels a sense of loss. Where did their taste go?  I thank him mille fois for digging into the when, wheres, hows, and whys. Anyone with the slightest interest in France will appreciate this book, too.”— Kermit Lynch, author of Adventures on the Wine Route

About the Author

Michael Steinberger is Slate's longtime wine columnist and a contributing writer for the Financial Times. His work has also appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times magazine, NYT Book Review, the Economist, Food & Wine, and Saveur, among many other publications. Previously, he worked as a foreign correspondent in Hong Kong, covering the city’s transition to Chinese rule, and he has written extensively about economics, finance, culture, sports, and politics for a variety of leading international media. He is married with two children.

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Customer Reviews

I wanted to have a bit more on what the actual problem is in the author's mind.
Jackal
It will be a book I will return to, reading it as one does a series of good magazine articles, not chapters.
Julie H. Rose
I started reading Au Revoir To All That thinking it a book on the decline of French cuisine.
New England Yankee

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 62 people found the following review helpful By New England Yankee on April 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I started reading Au Revoir To All That thinking it a book on the decline of French cuisine. It is that, but much more, too. The author is a wine columnist and, while the bulk of the work is taken up with food (and wine), it is really about the decline of France itself.

This is not the type of opinion writing wherein the French are simply bashed. Steinberger provides the regulatory detail, changes in French eating and drinking habits, and political and social background to convincingly show why French cuisine has collapsed - and it is a collapse. By way of example: France is the 2nd largest market in the world for McDonalds, the country has lost close to 200,000 restaurants, French wine consumption is down 50% since the 60's, and the living standard has declined precipitously.

Steinberger is a sympathetic writer. He obviously loves France, the French, and French cuisine, and is dismayed at his findings. He writes warmly of most of the chefs, shop owners, and vintners he meets and interviews. All of them are struggling to keep afloat. He conveys their anger and frustration so well you can feel it coming off the pages. A few come across as dinosaurs, notably chef Paul Bocuse. The situation for even the best, however, is grim. Most are on the edge and virtually all of them are among the few left standing.

For once, the French realize that they've caused their own problems, blaming, with few exceptions, the French bureaucracy. In addition, institutions like the Michelin guide come under heavy criticism. France shot itself in the foot - twice - with wine, in that the AOC system was allowed to run completely out of control precisely at the time that global wine competition was ballooning.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Jackal on September 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Based on the books titles I expected some sustained argument that there really is a problem in France. We get some anecdotal evidence, which I don't dispute. I wanted to have a bit more on what the actual problem is in the author's mind. However, after a couple of chapters I realise that we are not going to get more depth on that issue. Instead we get a collection of rewritten articles about various food topics. The essays all describe some kind of decline of French food. I call this a biased sample. There surely are restaurants on the rise as well. Talking to them might have given the author a more nuanced picture.

The author has maybe over a ten year period interviewed a number of people in French gastronomy and there are some interesting bits of information for the person really interested in French haute cuisine. The essays are mostly readable as long as you don't expect a detailed analysis of the decline of French food.

The author likes to provide irrelevant details. Like the cafe he is sitting in when writing. Like that the guy he is interviewing has a worn face and lives in trailer. Like a memory from ten years back when the author had a great dinner. These totally irrelevant episodes renders the reader rather narrow minded and shallow.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Esther Schindler TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have a tropism towards foodie books that also incorporate history, so I expected to love "Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France." I did enjoy reading it... but I found that, like some tasty treats, a little goes a long way.

The book is a collection of essays that explore, as the book's back cover says, the upheaval in French gastronomy. Because it's evident that France has lost its #1 spot for leadership in food and wine. Some of this is clearly for good reasons; that is, the rest of the world gained better food consciousness, from an emphasis on ingredient freshness to the continuing improvement of non-European locals for wine production. But, as author Michael Steinberger points out, plenty of the fault can be laid at the French as well.

Individually, some of the chapters are really wonderful. I learned a lot about the current state of cheese production in France (is a cheese "raw milk" if it's undergone thermalization, heating to 161 degrees for 20 seconds?) -- and its decline. I was fascinated by the details behind the Michelin stars and the pursuit thereof (I already knew the Michelin guidebooks were started by the tire company to promote auto travel, but maybe you didn't). And I was completely unaware of the crisis in the AOC, particularly that since 1960, France's per capital wine consumption has plummeted by 50%. (One result: in 2003, one hundred million liters of AOC wine were distilled into ethanol.)

But as a collection... I liked this book. I didn't adore it. I'm glad I read it, but it won't stay on my shelf for long. I think it's because the author offers no resolution; at the end of the book, the situation is just as dire as it was when we began.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By The Good Life on September 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a wine enthusiast, Francophone and pseudo-foodie, I was eager to get an advance copy of Au Revoir to Food, Wine and the End of France. Because it was not a finished version, it was rife with typos and missing information, which made it hugely challenging to get through. However, you folks will be buying the final copy, so you won't be stymied by those issues.

However, the book is so heavily researched and full of specific tidbits of information that it gets bogged down in the details. I had a hard time keeping track of the many chefs Michael Steinberger interviewed and restaurants he visited. Too many facts, dates, names, etc. In one way, that information seems relevant and possibly necessary, but as I was reading this for my own edification and not a school assignment, I would have preferred less data. It does read somewhat like a textbook in many areas, and it is laborious to get through, typos or no.

When Steinberger instead tells anecdotes, gives his impressions of the chefs and other experts (quite a few probably won't speak to him again!), and shares their input on what's wrong with French cuisine (hint: mostly a bureaucratic government that seriously gets in the way, coupled with a society that's become too busy to appreciate good food), the book becomes far more readable and enjoyable. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of French cuisine: the history of French cuisine, the impact of the economy and the government's policies, the famed/dreaded Michelin Guide, the role of racism in the restaurant business, the wine and cheese industries, the threat from Spanish and other foreign cuisines, infamous chefs such as Paul Bocuse and Alain Ducasse, etc. No stone is left unturned, and it is a thorough treatise of the topic.
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