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Provence, 1970    by Luke Barr Amazon.com order for
Provence, 1970
by Luke Barr
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Clarkson Potter, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

It was the year of the beginning of a new wave of cooking: 1970. Up to this point, French cooking had been at the top of culinary achievements - in restaurants as well as the home kitchen.

Julia and Paul Child spent the Christmas holiday season in their vacation home in France. James Beard was nearby in a diet clinic. Food writer M.F.K. Fisher arrived to spend time with her friends. Simone Beck, Child's co-author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, was there, as well as Richard Olney who had just published his first book, The French Menu Cookbook. And cookbook editor Judith Jones arrived to join in discussions about the way the food industry was turning around.

It would have been fantastic to be able to sit in a corner and listen to the traditionalists discuss the new cooking with those who felt it was time to move on. Beck and Olney wanted to keep foods as they were French style. The rest felt it was time to eliminate the rich sauces and long painstaking recipes, with elaborate ingredients. While these discussions took place, they were all cooking or preparing foods for their own meals. Apparently, they felt they should not have to give up pate de foie gras or caviar. Of course, the champagne flowed as did other beautiful wines.

Luke Barr, author of Provence, 1970, is the great nephew of M.F.K. Fisher. He was able to put this book together from long-forgotten letters. He did it extremely well. Provence, 1970 is written with grace and compassion. He tells it like it was and manages to bring these people to life, not an easy task. Some of the menus depicted had me salivating no. Not some. All of them. And descriptions of the French countryside took me back to my trip in the Loire Valley. How beautiful and nostalgic for me. Must renew my passport.

And a great big thanks to all these forward thinking people whose livelihoods depended on the public's acceptance of their foods. Provence, 1970 was a delightful book that I hated to close.

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