A clear-eyed, affectionate exploration of traditional cuisine’s place in the culture and politics of an ever-changing France.

In this collection of essays, Rosenblum (Olives, not reviewed), former editor of the International Herald Tribune and current owner of an olive farm in Provence, approaches his topic with an equal mix of food-lover’s passion and reporter’s craft. From alimentary staples to groundbreaking chefs to the hallowed status of the Guide Michelin, the author moves swiftly to encompass the whole sweep of French culinary society. Recounting a visit to the Chateau d’Yquem (home of what may be the best vintage in Bordeaux), Rosenblum delves into micro-climates and the laws of inheritance. The secret of Roquefort (“specially made rye bread gone green”) is discussed in the context of “rural desertification”—the dissolution of France’s farming infrastructure. All is relative, however. The reader may be reassured to find that there remain roughly 30,000 families who “make their living by force-feeding fowl to produce foie gras.” The author’s net is cast wide; equal time is granted to the musings of the celebrated Alain Ducasse and the philosophy of a colleague’s grandmother (who has an excellent recipe for a truffle omelet). Along the way, we are treated to accounts of such curiosities as the World Cup of pétanque (which, the author notes, is “about as international as the World Series”) and Fidel Castro’s love of Chablis. Rosenblum’s years on the ground—he’s lived in France for roughly a quarter of a century—give him more of an insider’s status than most Americans can achieve. What’s more, he has somehow discovered the secret of getting the straight dope from sullen paysans who don’t typically have much truck with chatty foreigners.

Highly satisfying.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7868-6465-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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