THE FRENCH AT TABLE by Rudolph Chelminski

THE FRENCH AT TABLE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A captivating gastronomic tour of France by an American journalist who has spent much of his career in that land of beurre et cr‚me. It's subtitled ""Why the French know how to eat better than any people on earth and how they have gone about it from the Gauls to Paul Bocuse."" That's a mouthful, but Chelminski keeps readers' appetites whetted with sumptuous descriptions of master chef creations--and the chefs themselves. Brillat-Savarin, that fanatical 18th-century gourmet, once said that ""Animals feed; the savage nourishes himself; only the man of spirit knows how to eat."" Had he gone one step further, he might have said ""And only the French are men of spirit."" Chelminski strongly agrees that in France is to be found the culmination of the art of cooking. He begins with a brief history of food in France. It wasn't until 1765 that the first restaurant opened, under a sign that read (in Latin), ""Come to me all of you whose stomachs are in distress, and I will restore you."" The functioning word there is ""restore""--in Latin, ""restaurat,"" thus ""restaurat,"" which somehow got an ""n"" added to it. After his historical survey, Chelminski takes us along on wine-tasting tours, relates personal vignettes about many of the great French chefs, including the ceaselessly practical joking Bocuse; goes along on a very serious seven-day restaurant inspection by the Guide Kleber, second only to Michelin; gives us a delicious history of croissants, and even takes us table-side for Craig Claiborne's famed $4,000 ""dinner-of-the-century,"" at which the author relates for the first time that Claiborne had an unreported thirty-second course--a hot pastrami sandwich that Chelminski playfully bought for him. Fact-filled, fun, recommended. A sure cure for junk food.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1985
Publisher: Morrow