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The Gourmands' Way : Six Americans in Paris and the Birth of a New Gastronomy
by Justin Spring


Overview -

A Publishers Weekly Best Nonfiction Book of 2017 and a Christian Science Monitor Best Book of 2017. Winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Award in Culinary History.

"The broad outline of Spring's thesis is so persuasive, the details so evocative (not to mention mouth watering), that anyone interested in the evolution of cooking in America will find The Gourmands' Way informative and indispensable." --Wendy Smith, The Boston Globe

A biography of six writers on food and wine whose lives and careers intersected in mid-twentieth-century France.  Read more...


 
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More About The Gourmands' Way by Justin Spring
 
 
 
Overview

A Publishers Weekly Best Nonfiction Book of 2017 and a Christian Science Monitor Best Book of 2017. Winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Award in Culinary History.

"The broad outline of Spring's thesis is so persuasive, the details so evocative (not to mention mouth watering), that anyone interested in the evolution of cooking in America will find The Gourmands' Way informative and indispensable." --Wendy Smith, The Boston Globe

A biography of six writers on food and wine whose lives and careers intersected in mid-twentieth-century France.

During the thirty-year boom in France following World War II--les Trente Glorieuses--Paris was not only the world's most stylish tourist destination, it was also the world capital of gastronomic genius. In The Gourmands' Way, Justin Spring tells the story of six American writer-adventurers having the time of their lives in the City of Light during this period and, in doing so, transforming the way Americans talk and think about food--and the way they eat.

The six are A. J. Liebling, Alice B. Toklas, M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, Alexis Lichine, and Richard Olney. The Gourmands' Way is the first book ever to look at these unforgettable figures as a group. It is also the first to focus specifically on their Paris-based adventures. Liebling was a great war correspondent, reporter, and humorist who opens Spring's narrative by sweeping into Paris with the French and Allied forces in August 1944; Toklas was Gertrude Stein's life partner who reinvented herself at age seventy-five as a cookbook author; Fisher was a sensualist storyteller and fabulist; Child was a cookbook author, America's greatest television food celebrity, and the reinventor of the dinner party; Lichine was an ambitious wine merchant who, through an astounding series of risk-taking ventures, became the leading importer of French wines in America; and Olney was a reclusive but freewheeling artist who reluctantly evolved into one of the foremost American writers on French cuisine and French wine.

Justin Spring focuses on the most joyful, exciting, formative, and dramatic moments of these six lives, many of which were intimately connected to the exploration and discovery of fine French food and drink--whether they experienced it at top Michelin-starred restaurants or straight from a hot plate in an artist's garret. The Gourmands' Way leads us through both the fabled world of haute cuisine and the vibrant bohemian and artistic haunts of the Left Bank during the 1950s. Intimate, anecdotal, and beautifully researched, The Gourmands' Way is an eye-opening exploration of the rich, storied annals of mid-twentieth-century Franco-American culinary history.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780374103156
  • ISBN-10: 0374103151
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publish Date: October 2017
  • Page Count: 448
  • Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Culinary
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Literary Figures
Books > History > Europe - France

 
BookPage Reviews

Eat, drink and be merry

This year’s holiday banquet includes a spread of books that are fit for feasting: two gorgeous coffee-table extravagances, a fascinating window into the culinary culture of 1940s Paris and a pair of visually appealing stocking stuffers.

Barton Seaver’s American ­Seafood: Heritage, Culture & Cookery from Sea to Shining Sea is a stunner. Seaver, a fine chef who was at the forefront of the sustainability movement, has published multiple cookbooks. His latest encyclopedic tome is part cookbook; part photo-journal studded with a variety of vintage ads, black-and-white photos and gorgeous full-color images; and, above all, a paean to the fishers and harvesters of one of America’s major food sources. Seaver, who lives in a Maine fishing village, makes a strong case for treating seafood and its procurers with the same respect as farmers and their heirloom tomatoes. The ancestors of these frontiersmen of the seas made the British settlement of the first American colonies possible. The two-page discussion of the often dissed catfish alone will convince you of Seaver’s passion for the ocean and its bounty.

TOAST OF THE TOWN
Peter Liem’s Champagne is for those who are seriously enchanted by the bubbly elixir. Billed as “the essential guide to the wines, producers, and terroirs of the iconic region,” this is an armchair oenophile’s delight. Liem provides a detailed description of the best champagnes from not only the better-known French areas such as Epernay and Reims but also the small villages and single vineyard producers. A former critic for Wine & Spirits magazine, Liem goes through the history and mechanics of champagne production (biodynamics, tank fermentation and crayères, the astounding chalk cellars 100 feet below ground dug out by the Greeks and Romans and now used for aging) and then dives into appreciating individual blends, vintages and their blenders. Liem doesn’t limit himself to the expensive sparklers, either; his evaluations range in price. As an extra bonus, the box set includes seven reproductions of vintage maps of the regions, the sort you could frame or decoupage onto the wine bar—or put travel pins in, if you’re really showing off.

PARISIAN FOOD
Justin Spring’s The Gourmands’ Way: Six Americans in Paris and the Birth of a New Gastronomy is an erudite, extensively researched evocation of a moment in time when a half-­dozen brilliant Americans converged in France in the mid-20th century and illuminated the culture of French cuisine for audiences back home.

Spring’s subjects are a fascinating group: the already corpulent World War II correspondent A.J. Liebling; the secret CIA spy and cooking icon Julia Child; the self-effacing M.F.K. Fisher; the artist-turned-rustic food chronicler Richard Olney; the opportunistic Alexis Lichine, who was raised in Paris but had based his wine business in New York; and Alice B. Toklas, the longtime partner of Gertrude Stein who was, in a way, the liaison between these five characters and the famous Lost Generation of writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Toklas’ knowledge of food had perhaps the most poignant beginning, because it was rooted in the shortages of the war and her straitened circumstances after Stein’s death; her cookbook was in part a task to shake off grief. It’s notable that none of the six figures featured here, with the arguable exception of Lichine, were food snobs; they celebrated regional, homey and haute dishes with equal relish. Spring has also layered in smart and pointed profiles of other writers, critics and contemporary celebrities, looking back on this period as a short-lived love affair between Americans and French fare that was curtailed by political unrest, new ethnic fads and, curiously, an infamous, unabashedly gluttonous $4,000, 31-course meal, replete with caviar and song birds, eaten by New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne in Paris in 1975 to the criticism of many.

COCKTAILS AND CATS
Around the World in 80 Cocktails by Australian bartender and writer Chad Parkhill packs in more fascinating historical trivia than most of the season’s cute cocktail book offerings, and the retro travel poster-style illustrations by Alice Oehr are a real pleasure. Head to Spain for a fruity Sherry Cobbler, which makes a cameo in a Charles Dickens novel, or read about Bolivia’s national spirit, the floral singani, while sipping a llajua cocktail. This would be a fine gift for a holiday host or well suited for placing atop a home bar tray.

(Reprinted with permission from Distillery Cats, copyright © 2017 by Brad Thomas Parsons. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Julia Kuo.)

More whimsical, and certainly more unusual, is Distillery Cats: Profiles in Courage of the World’s Most Spirited Mousers by James Beard Award-winning writer Brad Thomas Parsons, who offers up the tales of the felines who guard the grains in distilleries around the world, with lovely sketches of the cats courtesy of Julia Kuo and 15 delicious cocktail recipes as well. What is particularly sweet is the number of the cats that are strays, rescues and self-appointed welcoming committees. If you choose to pick up a bottle from one of the 31 American artisanal distilleries and breweries listed, you will have a first-rate feline host to greet you.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews