- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: North Point Press; 1st edition (June 26, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0865476454
- ISBN-13: 978-0865476455
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,511,840 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Goose in Toulouse: and Other Culinary Adventures in France Paperback – June 26, 2002
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Even people who think they know everything about France will learn something from this book.
My strongest impression on reading this book is that the author is describing many of the situations which drive people, at least citizens of France and the European Union, to organize protests at world economic summits or other meetings or organizations aimed at promoting globalization. Economic conditions in France and regulations imposed by the European Union appear to be leading to the disappearance of small scale agriculture in France, the kind of agriculture which is largely responsible for the artisnal foods and wines for which France is so famous. The great irony here to my mind is that in the same last 15 years, there has been a great revival of interest in both local and international artisanal products among Americans. Whitness the great reputation and influence of Chez Panisse and the movement to support local farmers and markets plus nationally available artisanal products such as Maytag blue cheese and specialty bacons.
Another irony is that the European Union regulatory bodies are having much the same effect on smaller agricultural businesses in Europe as American regulatory agencies have on local products. They appear to be driving out of business the very agriculture which so clearly distinguishes European agricultural products from the American. The issue of cheeses from unpasturized milk is a perfect example. American customs prevents the import of any such products into the U.S. except for Rocquefort (since the French have convinced the FDA that the penicillin in this cheese kills off anything normally eliminated by Pasteurization). The problem is, the economics of producing Rocquefort is becoming so difficult that there is some danger that true Rocquefort may disappear, i.e., be too expensive to produce.
The great tragedy I sense in the disappearance of artisanal products from small scale agriculture is that it means that the relatively inexpensive pleasures one can gain from the great foods of the world are in danger of either disappearing or becoming too expensive for the average middle class foodie to afford. I would really mourn seeing things like Rocquefort or Brie go the way of caviar, simply too expensive and too rare to enjoy outside of a very expensive venue.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys contemporary essays in general and essays on things culinary in particular. To those reviewers who found the work too dispassionate, I would point out that Rosenblum is writing journalism and not polemics. Being informed of the `desertification' of the French countryside and the reasons for same was more than enough. I will look for agendas (and recipes) in other works.
Rosenblum's chief concern here is French cuisine and what's happening to it--as well as the refined tastes of the average Frenchman. The treasures of the French table--including the famous 246 kinds of cheese--are at risk today. The economic power of international agribusiness and bureaucratic meddling by the European Union combine to drive many small food producers out of business. At the same time, restaurants face competition from "McDo" (as the French call Mickey-Dee) and small open-air markets are steadily undermined by supermarkets of a size even Americans would blanch at. All this sounds so far like a recipe for unrelieved gloom, but that is far from the case. Rosenblum travels widely interviewing chefs and cheesemakers among others, and it's suprising how many of them manage to be hopeful of the future. That's partly because Rosenblum is usually eating his way through France, and to have him describe a meal is what it must have been like to hear Keats read his own poems.
Rosenblum is a knowledgeable man with a lot of French history at his fingertips--and when he doesn't, he's still a reporter: he looks it up. As a result the reader feels secure that there's something here besides mere personal opinion, and surprising facts emerge. Most of us, for example, take it for granted that France's devotion to cheese is bone deep; in fact, Rosenblum learns from one of France's true maitres that it's really a recent phenomenon.
The writing itself is excellent and rewarding; Rosenblum is lighthearted at the keyboard and he doesn't shy away from a first-rate pun. For example, explaining that French peasants supported the Revolution partly because hunting was strictly a royal privilege, Rosenblum notes that "the reign was called on account of game." More important is Rosenblum's sincere love of France and--despite the recent waves of hysterical, anti-immigrtant nationalism--the French people as well.
On top of everything else, "A Goose in Toulouse" is a terrific antidote to the cynical calculations of "A Year in Provence."