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What are you reading?

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#421 SylviaLovegren

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Posted 03 December 2013 - 06:24 AM

I recently read Luke Barr's Provence 1970, about MFK Fisher, Simca Beck, James Beard, Paul and Julia Child and Richard Olney all being in Provence at the same time in what was a pivotal year for each of them. It's an OK book; about what you'd expect from MFK's great nephew - hagiographies of one and all - with the exception of Olney, who comes across as a cantankerous know-it-all and a grumpy loner.
BUT! that book led me to Olney's Reflexions, which was wonderful. After reading this uncompleted memoir, which was published posthumously, I don't think he was curmudgeonly at all. In fact, he seems to have been extraordinarily sensitive, and he comes across to me as a dear, sweet, shy, hardworking, extraordinarily talented man. He constantly found himself going out of his way to do people huge favors, and he usually got punished for his generosity. He was very, very close to his large extended family and had many dear friends (and the love comes across even when he's griping about how some of them treat him). Yes, he makes some catty observations about people, but what's forgotten, I think, is that this book is mostly excerpts of diary entries and letters to his brothers, the only two places he could "let his hair down," so if he comes across as bitchy, it's the kind of bitchiness you only find in these kinds of very personal writings. I'm sure he knew of his reputation and I'm guessing that's why he put this book together, in self-defense, knowing he was nearing the end of his days.
The only complaint I have is that he often introduces people (and it seems like there are thousands of people!) early in the book and thereafter refers to them by first name only, so sometimes it's kind of hard to figure out who he's talking about (which Jimmy was that again?) but I think that probably would have been corrected had he been able to do the final editing himself.  
The last chapter, written by his brother after R.O.'s death, had me in tears, just as with the Eck/Winterrowd book above.
And oh! the descriptions of the meals and the wines! Now I'm planning to devour everything he ever wrote. I'm already deep into Simple French Food.
But next up is Ann Mah's Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris. No tears with this one, I hope!
Host Note: Here are eGullet Society friendly links to some of the mentioned books
Provence 1970

Thank you for posting this! I didn't know about either book and will put them on my Christmas list -- and get them myself if no one cooperates in the Santa department. Richard Olney seems a bit "difficult" as a personality, but his cooking was amazing. French Menu and Simple French Cooking are two of my favorite books and a couple of the best things I've ever tasted in my life have come out of them. He isn't/wasn't nearly as well known as he should have been.

#422 Darienne

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Posted 23 December 2013 - 02:08 PM

Just finished reading In The Kitchen, by Monica Ali, finalist for the Man Booker  Prize.  Just grabbed it off the shelf in the library without looking at more than the photo of the kitchen on the front cover.  No idea of what it was about except that it was fiction, a kitchen was featured, and it almost won a prestigious British literary prize and was nominated for two American literary prizes.


It features a top British chef working as executive chef in a posh hotel with a restaurant and his very complicated life.  Sorry to say, I really didn't like it very much...but I really enjoyed the parts about the hotel kitchen and the cooking.  His life left me a bit cold.


learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

#423 JoNorvelleWalker

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 08:55 PM

Photography of Modernist Cuisine.  (What few words there are.)

#424 DiggingDogFarm

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 09:20 PM

La Cuisine Française. French Cooking for Every Home. Adapted to American Requirements. By François Tanty. Chicago: Baldwin, Ross & Co., 1893.

Unsupervised rebellious radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader and adventurous cook. Crotchety cantankerous terse curmudgeon, nonconformist and contrarian who questions everything!

#425 heidih

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Posted 08 March 2014 - 02:37 PM

Epitaph for a Peach by David Masumoto


I read his piece in the LA Times years ago and it has always stuck in my mind.  A second generation farmer who confronts the sad state of what we value in our food. It came out in 1995 but I find it relevant in 2014.

Edited by heidih, 08 March 2014 - 02:41 PM.

#426 MelissaH

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Posted 10 March 2014 - 02:25 PM

Epitaph for a Peach by David Masumoto


I read his piece in the LA Times years ago and it has always stuck in my mind.  A second generation farmer who confronts the sad state of what we value in our food. It came out in 1995 but I find it relevant in 2014.

This is an incredible book. It's sad, but somehow manages to keep a thread of hope alive. And heidih is absolutely right that, 20 years after the events in the book, the content is spot-on relevant still. Get to know the farmers who grow your food.

Oswego, NY
Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

#427 Max101

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Posted 10 March 2014 - 05:18 PM

Right now I am reading our churches cookbook.  Really good one here.  So many great recipes that I am having a hard time what to make next.

#428 Alex

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Posted 11 March 2014 - 09:46 AM

Just started the novel Quesadillas, by Juan Pablo Villalobos, translated into English by Rosalind Harvey (Amazon link)



Back then I thought, among other things, that all the people and things that appeared on TV had nothing to do with our town...Until one night we had a terrifying experience when we sat down to eat our quesadillas: our town was the main item on the news. A silence so complete fell that, apart from the reporter's voice, all you could hear was the rustle of our fingers carrying tortillas to our mouths. Even in our surprise we weren't going to stop eating: if you think eating quesadillas in the midst of widespread astonishment is implausible, it's because you didn't grow up in a big family.

Gene Weingarten, writing in The Washington Post about online news stories and their readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

"A vasectomy might cost as much as a year’s worth of ice cream, but that doesn’t mean it’s equally enjoyable." -Ezra Dyer, NY Times

#429 Smithy

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 09:39 AM

I've been reading The Pat Conroy Cookbook from cover to electronic cover, instead of jumping around to various topics in search of a particular recipe as I've done since I bought it last year as my very first electronic book.  The man is a wonderful story teller.  Earlier contributors to this topic have already noted his hilarious story involving Nathalie Dupree.  A much later chapter tells of the moment when he began, more or less, to reconcile with his father.  That single story gave me belly laughs followed by tears: something I've learned to expect with his writing.


I picked up and put down this book at the bookstore when it first came out; at the time I wanted a cookbook and there were too few  recipes for the book's size.  In the intervening years I've fallen in love with Pat Conroy's writing, and this book is for me a beautiful balance of evocative stories and great food.  Last night I made, for the second time, his crab cakes.  I'll be making them again when I can get more fresh crab meat.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

#430 IowaDee

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 01:46 PM

I too read Quesadillas and enjoyed it.  Also like the author's other book. Down the rabbit hole. Not so food related unless you're

interested in the diet of a Liberian pygmy hippopotamus but still an interesting book.