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Best Books of the Year So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2015's Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
"Lulu Peyraud taught me how to make bouillabaisse in her Bandol kitchen and Richard Olney has been an inspiration for years. The aromas of Lulu's food and wine actually seem to waft from the pages." --Paula Wolfert
"Lulu's Provençal Table is a gastronomic love poem to France's most exhilarating region. Here, Richard Olney profiles both a lifestyle and a culinary tradition, a real life that deserves to be shared with the world. His personal voice, as well as Lulu's masterful art of cooking with love, both come through loud and clear. In short, a gold mine of authentic Provençal cooking." --Patricia Wells
About the Author
RICHARD OLNEY was born and raised in Iowa, one of eight children in a quintessential American family. After relocating to a Parisian suburb in 1951 and then buying a run-down property in Provence, Olney settled in France permanently. The author of eight books, Olney passed away at his Provençal home in the summer of 1999.
`Lulu's Provencal Table' by renowned culinary writer and editor, Richard Olney is one of the best works in the very select genre of what might be called `culinary anthropology'. The works I know in this field are few in number but very high in quality and in the rewards for interested readers.
The leading work in this field is certainly `Honey from a Weed' by Patience Gray. Other notable titles are `The Cook and the Gardener' by Amanda Hesser and `The Tuscan Year' by Elizabeth Romer. Befitting Olney's influence, almost all of John Thorne's essays also belong to this tribe of writing. Also befitting this influence, it is Thorne who writes the new introduction to this very substantial work. In this piece, Thorne cites Madeleine Kamman's `When French Women Cook' as another member of this select tribe. I cite this in deference to Thorne's expertise in the area and I hope to review it very soon.
Like my reviewing of `Honey from a Weed', I owned the book for almost a year before I opened it up and I deeply regret my delay, as this is a vicarious culinary pleasure of the first order. The subject / cook / interviewee of the book is Lucie Tempier Peyraud, known to all as `Lulu', the wife of the important French vintner, Lucian Peyraud and co-owner of Domaine Tempier, a vineyard and dwelling `nestled in the hillsides outside the neighboring fishing ports of Bandol and Sanary, some ten miles from Toulon and thirty miles from Marseilles.' Author Olney became friends with the Peyrauds shortly after purchasing a very run-down cottage near Domaine Tempier, before he was the renowned culinary writer he was to become with his books on French cuisine and his editorship of the Time-Life series of books on world cuisines.Read more ›
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Richard Olney probably came closer to perfection as a cookbook author than any other American. His books are exquisite models of focus, structure, warmth, and practicality, and his treatment of food and wine somehow manages to be simultaneously perfectly balanced and highly personal. Next to Olney's cookbooks and vinyard monographs, the oevres of James Beard and Julia Child, for example, feel overblown, oversold, and downright sloppy.
Olney's warmhearted incision is the perfect match for the home cooking of Lulu Peyraud. Mm Peyraud is the Marseille native, mother of seven, keystone of the Bandol food and wine community, renowned home cook, and owner-operator of Domaine Tempier, widely considered the finest vinyard of France's Mediterranean coast. Most famously, she is gratefully credited by Alice Waters, Kermit Lynch, Jeremiah Tower, Paul Bertolli, and a host of other American food heirarchs with being their inspiration and touchstone. But for years before America found the simple pleasures of expertly-prepared, highly-local, regional foods, Lulu and Richard were cooking lunches for each other under their respective grape arbors. This book is a broad sample of those meals. In it, Olney documents the preparation, from farm and fish-market to plate, of Mm Peyraud's favorite family meals. Each recipe is presented with notes on ingredients, irregularities and seasonal adjustments in Mm Peyraud's preparations, lucid explanations of techniques, and reminders to keep things loose. The result is a highly-informative glimpse into the regional cuisine that forms the culinary hunge between France and Piedmont-Liguria. This cuisine is one of the world's most satisfying, and I believe that this book is its greatest Testament.
The reviewers above are eloquent and complete in their opinions of this cookbook. I will add that this is my favorite of all my well-loved cookbooks. I have never been to Provence - maybe someday.
My life is not the same as Lulu's. I have three very young children and live outside of New York City, but I, too, like to cook because I like to eat! Richard Olney has written this book for those of us who cook without recipes, who like to change a dish according to what is on hand or what mood strikes us, and who still find that the simplest recipes can taste divine. Lulu's chicken with apples is a case in point. She turns off the oven after a half hour (if I remember correctly) to have time to spend outside; I set the oven-timer to turn off so that the recipe is done when I return with the kids after my daughter's gymnastics class. The day-to-day life is different, but the desire to have lovingly prepared food for our family and friends is not. I hope that you will buy this cookbook and treasure it as I have.
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It tells the story about a truly inspirational family and their famous vineyard that spans virtually the entire twentieth century. It tells a story about the history of the Bandol apellation. It tells a story about each of the seasons living life in and around the vineyard; the food, the vineyard, the weather, the wine and the types of meals and celebrations that accompany them.
And then it is a cookbook. And then the recipes have context and you then know why you want to cook them and you imagine sitting down to dinner with Lulu and her family just one time (and speaking french) and even helping out in the kitchen.
So it is not just a cookbook... it is a really great dream about living and loving and cooking and eating in an amazing place surrounded by amazing people who grow grapes and make terrific wine and celebrate life each and every day.
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