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The Food and Flavors of Haute Provence Hardcover – October 1, 1997
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New York Newsday
By Marie Bianco
THE ADVENTURE began in 1970 when Georgeanne Brennan and her husband left California and bought a house in Haute Provence, a rural and rugged area of France an hour north of the more glamorous Cote d'Azur. In the plain and simple life they chose, Brennan planted a kitchen garden, raised pigs and made goat cheese. But best of all she cooked.
Her new book, "The Food and Flavors of Haute Provence," part diary, part cookbook and part armchair travel guide, focuses on one of the largely undiscovered areas of France. Here her neighbors eat what they grow, gather, raise and hunt, and she does the same. Her recipe for boudin noir (black pudding) comes from the butcher, the one for poor man's foie gras from Madame Corbet, a neighbor.
Each chapter gives instructions on some of the basics of Provençal cuisine--things I've always wanted to try, such as curing olives, desalting dried cod, seasoning fresh cheese, drying mushrooms, preserving fruit in alcohol.
In Haute Provence the food is perfumed with olive oil, and its production is a large part of country life. Brennan shares her delight at the first sampling of oil from her own olive trees. She describes the importance of every French farm woman's potager, or kitchen garden, which supplies fresh vegetables from the first fava beans of spring to the last pumpkin of fall.
Brennan's recipes ring true with the flavors of Haute Provence. They are varied and easy to follow. Although you may not be tempted to try your hand at boudin noir or wild boar casserole, there are plenty of pasta dishes, seasonal vegetable side dishes, chicken and lamb entrees and simple desserts.
From: Publishers Weekly
Just when it seems that Provençal cuisine is almost old-fashioned, Brennan makes it new again. She and her husband bought their home in the fuzzily defined region of Haute Provence in 1970. While their children were small, they lived off their farm, keeping goats and pigs and selling goat cheese locally. Their involvement in local agricultrue, described in essays on, for example the making of olive oil, sets this fine book apart from the run-of-the-mill memoirs of expatriate life in Tuscany and Provence. Only an insider is likely to know that "French pharmacists are trained in mycology and enthusiastically identify mushrooms brought to them." The recipes are excellent, offering toothsome and generally simple-to-fix dishes that highlight the flavors of Provence. Chapters are arranged around ingredients such as wild mushrooms and truffles or nuts. Each begins with an essay and a few basic techniques (e.g., the chapter on cheese explains how to make flavored cheese spreads.) Fresh flavors abound in dishes like Galettes of Wild Greens, and Warm Polenta Crêpes with Peaches and Fresh Goat Cheese. Among the desserts is Green Almond Ice Cream. Heartier foods include Baked Pheasant with Chestnuts, Cèpes, and Cabbage; Fried Ravioli with Garlic-Spinach filling; and Baked Pasta with Chanterelles. Brennan's graceful blend of agricultrual knowledge, food combinations, flavor descriptions and clear recipe directions is outstanding.
About the Author
Georgeanne Brennan is a James Beard Award-winning author of numerous cooking and garden books. She lives in Northern California and France.