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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. Peter Mayle, author of the bestselling A Year in Provence has done it again--but differently. Traveling this time beyond his adopted Provence throughout France, the food and travel writer has produced French Lessons, a celebration of many of that country's gastronomic joys. Whether pursuing La Foire de Fromages, the annual cheese fair at Livarot; a Burgundian marathon offering runners Médoc refreshment; or a village truffle mass that concludes with a heady dégustation of the newly blessed tuber, Mayle takes his readers in hand and shows all. Wide-eyed yet knowing, ever affable but with a touch of mischief, he's an ideal companion, the best possible narrator of his lively food adventures.
Mayle's gastronomic baptism occurs when, as a 19-year-old, he dines for the first time in France. "At the first mouthful of French bread and French butter," he writes, "my taste buds, dormant until then, went into spasm." The paroxysm leads to serious food-and-wine perambulations--and, finally, to chapters including "The Thigh-Taster of Vitel" (a frog-eating fete); "Slow Food" (snail love in Martigny les Bains) and "The Guided Stomach" (an investigation of the Michelin Guide restaurant inspection), among others. Readers are also present for a debate on the secret of the perfect omelet; a search for the best possible chicken in Bourg-en-Bresse; and a visit to a St. Tropez restaurant notable for its scantily clad habitués. Those familiar with Mayle's work, and those yet to discover it, are in for a treat. --Arthur Boehm
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