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Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 22, 2013
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In fact, those three, plus Craig Claiborne, introduced me to the glories of food and cooking when I was in college. Starting with The Art of Eating, which I bought because of the writing, not the subject, I learned early and took it to heart that food should be fresh, food should be joyous, and that eating is a big part of the art of living.
What I am only beginning to realize, through books like this, is how revolutionary these notions were. Coming together in December 1970 in Provence, these three influential food writers, plus Richard Olney (an American expat and cookbook writer), they looked at a country and cuisine they loved and realized that they, as Americans, could add something wonderful to the conversation about food.
They realized that French food had become too complex, too rarified, and too rigid. But it could be so much more. If they added a deep respect for ingredients, an emphasis on freshness and easy preparation, and some of the meting pot of America, something might happen.
It turned out that something was a very good thing indeed.
Written by Fisher's great-nephew, this book looks at the things that happened, how they affected Beard, Child, and Fisher, and what came of it. The books is beautifully and affectionately written and thoroughly researched. I just loved it.
If you have ever wondered why we eat the way we do, read this book and you'll know.
If you were inclined to adventurous cooking, you were limited by what was available at the market - and in most American towns it was almost impossible to find olive oil or lettuce other than iceberg. Cheese came in three flavors - American, Swiss, and Cheddar.
The premise of Luke Barr's book is that when the major American food personalities of the time arrived in Provence in late 1970, it was the threshold of a change in American dining. He makes a case that those writers (Julia Child, Richard Olney, James Beard, and Barr's great-aunt M.F.K. Fisher) were drivers of that change.
My initial reaction to the notion that several food writers could change the way America ate, was skepticism. But when I recalled how limited our diets were then by today's standards, I had to concede that something caused that change. Maybe it was those few personalities or maybe they were just quick to see what was already happening and jumped on board. Either way, we get to spend a couple of months in Provence with an outspoken bunch of characters.
Barr's access to M.F.K. Fisher's papers make this an original work, since much of his research revolves around a detailed diary that she kept while in Provence that year. Her daily letters to her confidante/lover provided more detail.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book pales in comparison to Julia Child's My Life in France and Jacques Pepin's The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen. Highly recommend both of those over this one.Published 7 days ago by Amazon Customer
I throughly enjoyed this book! It was well written and I was able to visualize every character as they moved through the pages.Published 25 days ago by Candi Jensen
Provence, 1970; M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste by Luke Barr touches on areas such as the expat-bohemian way of life (page 69),... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Stella Carrier
This book is written by a grand-nephew of M.F.K. Fisher and is the story of the conjunction of the stars: Fisher, James Beard and Julia Child. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Joanna D.
Delightful book -- those who are MFK and Julia fans will enjoy this inside story of food-world icons in France during the years when they were most influential.Published 3 months ago by Kay
I loved this book! It was a great read and I didn't want it to end. To learn about how people like MFK Fisher, Julia and James (along with many others) influenced the direction... Read morePublished 4 months ago by LK
1970 really is an important year, and Luke Barr convinced me. I loved this book for the insights, history, and drama that Barr so convincingly offers in this history. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Andrea Broomfield
Good historical take on the evolution of new changes to the American table with personal perspectives .Published 4 months ago by Kay J.