Wednesday, July 11, 2012

French Lessons


French Lessons: Adventures with the Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew
© 2001 Peter Mayle
227 pages


Peter Mayle is to be envied. Some people's work involves overseeing hundreds of people and managing the affairs of a business that skirts bankruptcy other day. Some put their life in peril, fighting fires or confronting criminals. Some are pushed to their physical limits putting in long hours on the factory floor.  Mayle, on the other hand, must roam France and subject himself to its most extraordinary pleasures, then regale readers with stories of  this most dreadful task. Mayle is an author who loves France, and after dining with him vicariously through French Lessons, it's easy to understand why. How can one resist a people who love food this much? A retired barfly refers to cuisine as the religion of France, and it's a religion that's quite robust. Mayle visits festival after festival celebrating local delicacies -- truffles, snails, vintage wine -- and immerses himself fully in the traditional celebrations of these foodstuffs. It's either the French gift for cooking or Mayle's for writing, but he does manage to make the task of delivering a slug from its shell sound not only fun, but appetizing. Part of the fun of the book is that Mayle always finds someone passionate to dine with, and they both drink themselves silly.  Although the book seems written mostly to entertain,  Mayle's emphasis on eating quality food for pleasure supported the principles Mireille Guiliano demonstrated in French Women Don't Get Fat.  This is a quick, zesty, and entertaining read.

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