My Summary: Most people know Peter Mayle from his delightful memoir A Year in Provence, which describes the British author's adjustment to living in the French countryside. In French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew, Mayle travels throughout his adopted country to savor a selection of typical French fare.
With his usual charm and self-deprecating humor, Mayle takes us from his first Parisian meal (of upscale fish and chips) to a frog-leg festival, a mass held in honor of truffles, wine-tasting opportunities, and a look behind the scenes of the Michelin guide. Among other adventures is a trip to Normandy to learn about pungent cheeses and delectable ciders. Throughout, we are treated to a sense of a culture just a step removed from the modern frenzied pace.
Lunch progresses at an unhurried pace, as all good lunches should. People eat more slowly on Sundays, and drink a little more wine than usual. They forget to look at their watches. Two hours slip by, often more. Eventually, with appetites satisfied, a drowsy calm comes over the room as the plates are cleared away, the tablecloths are brushed, and coffee is served. A lazy afternoon lies ahead: a book, a doze, a swim. The chef makes a ceremonial tour of the tables, gathering compliments, happy to share with you one or two favorite recipes. Curiously, these dishes never taste quite the same at home, no matter how carefully the recipe is followed, no matter how talented the cook. There is something about Sunday lunch in a French country restaurant that goes beyond food (p. 19).My Thoughts: This is must-read for all Mayle fans. If you're new to the author, start with A Year in Provence, the best (in my opinion) of his memoirs.
I read this book for a number of reading challenges (listed below). For more information about them and to see what other participants are reading, click on the name above the progress bar in the left column.
Published by Random House, 2002
Challenges: Winter Reading, A-Z Title, 100+, Buy One