When people think France, they automatically think food. At least, people who don’t live here do. Whilst I and its fellow residents enjoy eating as much as everyone else in the world, it’s just an aspect of your life, not an all-consuming passion.
So the France = Food formula may be a stereotype but it makes for good PR! It also makes for interesting books, such as this one by Anne Mah in her book Mastering the Art of French Eating (Pamela Dorman Books, €13.65 Kindle to €20.03 paper version). She follows a successful formula of mixing observations on France and the French resulting from living amongst them with recipes and some culinary history. David Leibovitz and Julia Child are just two other authors who have done this. But it doesn’t become tired, and Anne Mah has a novel approach in her book in selecting only very well known regional dishes rather than the usually more eclectic, slightly random choices that authors make. She makes a trip to the relevant region and gives us the full background on each dish.
However, whilst we’re happy to hear about Mah’s experiences out amongst the natives, sometimes her introspection becomes tedious. Yes, it’s tough being separated from your partner but millions of people share this situation and these days it’s a heck of a lot easier than it was with Skype, email and so on. I can remember the era when you had to rely on hideously expensive long distance phone calls and letters, and I’m not that old! This electronic era makes absence somewhat less awful. However, the author does tend to wallow and that is offputting. That element should have been consigned to a diary or a separate book since this one suffers in becoming stretched between what we want to read – i.e. France and French food – and what we don’t, i.e. the author being miserable.
Generally the recipes are appealing and well-presented although I’m not sure I can see many people tackling andouillettes from scratch or curing pork for themselves.
So a partially successful book that is informative about France in places but rather undecided in what it’s trying to achieve.