- Series: Vintage Departures
- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 9, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375705619
- ISBN-13: 978-0375705618
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 97 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew Paperback – April 9, 2002
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“Delectable . . . as satisfying as a meal in a Michelin-rated three-star restaurant.” —USA Today
“Mayle’s descriptions are as mouth watering as the food he samples.” —Rocky Mountain News
“So evocative you can almost feel the bib tied around his chin and sip the last drop of Bordeaux at the bottom of his glass.” —The Washington Post
“Charming. . . . [Peter Mayle] whets the reader’s appetite for all things French. Even frog legs. Or especially frog legs.” —Nashville City Paper
“Armchair diners will doubtless find the fourth volume…as tasty as ever.” —New York Magazine
“Savory, sensual, positively transporting stories about his encounters with Gallic gustatory delights and about his growing appreciation of the central place food occupies in French life…. His descriptions of the meals they serve allow us to practically taste the frog legs and truffles right along with him.” —Booklist
“Whether you’re going to France or just to eat, Mayle is worth reading.” —San Jose Mercury News
“Foodies and Francophiles will discover a like-minded devotee. And all but the strictest vegetarian will be made hungry by this book. Mayle’s form is every bit as good as ever.” —The Associated Press
From the Inside Flap
Peter Mayle, francophile phenomenon and author of "A Year in Provence, brings another delightful (and delicious) account of the good life, this time exploring the gustatory pleasures to be found throughout France.
The French celebrate food and drink more than any other people, and Mayle shows us just how contagious their enthusiasm can be. We visit the Foire aux Escargots. We attend a truly French marathon, where the beverage of choice is Chteau Lafite-Rothschild rather than Gatorade. We search out the most pungent cheese in France, and eavesdrop on a heated debate on the perfect way to prepare an omelet. We even attend a Catholic mass in the village of Richerenches, a sacred event at which thanks are given for the aromatic, mysterious, and breathtakingly expensive black truffle. With Mayle as our inimitably charming guide, we come away with a satisfied smile (if a little hungry) and the compelling desire to book a flight to France at once.
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As Mayle winds down his marathon of fourteen courses through the festivals of France, he divulges as a parting shot, the background to the famous Michelin travel directory in "The Guided Stomach". I had my first set of Michelin Radial tires on an MG TD I bought in 1972, and I wondered back then, "How did a company known for its fancy automobile tires end up making the Michelin Guide?" Now, some 38 years later, I find the answer in a book about eating and drinking -- it is a story about how the rubber hits the road.
[page 208] It was 1900, the year of the first Michelin guide to France . . . It is a pocket-sized volume, this first edition, of just under four hundred tightly set, busy-looking pages, and it was given away to owners of voitures, voiturettes, and even velocipedes by the brothers Michelin. They had created the removable pneumatic tire in 1891, and the guide was their way of encouraging motorists to wear out as much rubber as possible by extending their travels throughout France.
The Guided Stomach portion of the Michelin Guide was to come later, as there were no food establishments listed in the first editions of the Guide. Getting there alive back then seemed more important than getting there well fed.
[page 210] Readers of that first guide were invited to write to Michelin with their comments, and they could hardly fail to have been impressed by the fund of technical and geographical information contained in the little book. But how many of them, I wonder, wrote in to ask that burning question so close and dear to any French heart at any time, but even more so after a hard day on the road. What's for dinner?
Because although hotels were listed, restaurants weren't. The guide was, after all, intended to be a survival manual for motorists driving primitive machinery that frequently broke down. A man whose valves and grommets were giving him trouble could hardly be expected to give much thought or attention to a menu. Heretical though it may sound, in those early years, mechanics were more important than chefs.
As we wend our way to the end of this guided tour of Mayle's psyche, we follow him and his wife to one of the establishments still alive and cooking since that original 1900 guide. It is a hotel and restaurant in Avignon, Hotel d'Europe.
[page 222, 223] Looking through the pages of the 2000 edition, you will find 116 establishments that were recommended in the original guide a hundred years ago. One of these monuments happens to be the Hotel d'Europe in Avignon, not far from us, and we thought it would be interesting to see how it was holding up under the weight of all those years.
In fact, the hotel was doing brisk business long before the Michelin brothers discovered it. Built in the sixteenth century, it was acquired by a widow, Madame Pierron, who opened her doors to travelers in 1799. Bigwigs of every description came to stay: cardinals and archbishops, princes and statesmen, even Napoleon Bonaparte. History doesn't relate whether Josephine came, too, but it seems he had fond memories of the place. When he was fighting in Russia, surrounded by officers complaining about the discomforts of war, he showed little sympathy.
"Sacrebleu!" he is reported to have said. "We're not at Madame Pierron's hotel."
In this famous hotel, Mayle toasted all of us, including you, dear Reader, as collectively we constitute Monsieur Tout le Monde.
[page 224] It had been a lovely evening, and it marked the end of a certain stage in the preparation of this book -- the end of that leisurely, enjoyable, and often well-fed process that I like to call research. A toast seemed appropriate.
We drank to chefs, particularly French chefs. And then we raised our glasses again to that unsung hero of the table, custodian of the nation's stomach, and seeker after gastronomic immortality, wherever he can find it: Monsieur Tout Ie Monde. Let's hope he's with us for another hundred years.
The "Last Course" is like the famous toast, "The King is dead. Long live the King." The next step is for Monsieur Tout le Monde, Mr. Everyman, the intrepid traveler in each of us, to walk in Mayle's footsteps through the muddy field, don a Day-Glo wig for the marathon, dodge the flying corks of Burgundy, and sleep in the Hotel d'Europe where Robert Brown and Elizabeth Barrett spent their elopement. Today the Book, tomorrow the World!
The remainder of my review can be found in DIGESTWORLD ISSUE#103 by Bobby Matherne.
If you like France and you like food, you will like this book. Mr. Mayle travels around going to various festivals that celebrate the eating of snails, or frogs legs, or cheese, etc. There are a couple of absolutely hilarious chapers, one dealing with the "beautiful people" being undressed for lunch in a seaside restaurant in St. Tropez, and the other dealing with going to a health spa, French style. (You have the choice between eating off of the low calorie menu or the gourmet menu. Caloric content is not given on the gourmet menu. After all, this is France!)
Scoop this book up as quickly as you can and enjoy every bite. Bon Appetit!
A quick read that'll stimulate your appetite and your appreciation of a culture that defines its days by its meals. Don't miss the chapter on the wine marathon in drag...
Most recent customer reviews
Not as good as his first book