Thursday, February 12, 2015
History Corner: Provence 1970 by Luke Barr
Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book, free of charge, from Random House, via Blogging for Books, for review purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it
Continuing our food theme for the day....
Provence, 1970 is about a singular historic moment. In the winter of that year, more or less coincidentally, the iconic culinary figures James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, Richard Olney, Simone Beck, and Judith Jones found themselves together in the South of France. They cooked and ate, talked and argued, about the future of food in America, the meaning of taste, and the limits of snobbery. Without quite realizing it, they were shaping today’s tastes and culture, the way we eat now. The conversations among this group were chronicled by M.F.K. Fisher in journals and letters—some of which were later discovered by Luke Barr, her great-nephew. In Provence 1970 ,he captures this seminal season, set against a stunning backdrop in cinematic scope—complete with gossip, drama, and contemporary relevance.
Confession time. I have NEVER read any of MFK Fisher's books. Oops. But I adored Julia CHild and have read all the book she wrote and about her, as well as some on Simone Beck and James Beard,, so when I saw this book, I was interested in what it had new to add to what I knew about them. What I got instead was a whole new moment of time that, like when an author writes a follow up pre-story to the novel you read, suddenly explains everything!
Through MFK's diaries and letters, to and from the different chefs (who were all VERY prolific letter writers), Luke has done an excellent job in giving us back a Summer in 1970 and filling out the missing pieces of what happened that set the chefs on different paths that literally led America down it's current 'foodie' path. All of the chefs had reached a plateau of success, yet personally want to step away from the over fussiness and long preparation of food, and go 'back to the basics' -cooking fresh food in simple, flavorable ways, if that sounds familiar, it is because it was their dream theat ended up being the foundation for how we still cook today! It started over the Summer when they all shared meals together- simple Summer fare and one over the top dinner, that led them all to yearn for simplicity.
Luke does a great job in showing how each chef individually came to their decision, and then how they implemented them into their next cookbook and publicity for it, and how together as the top set of cooking chefs, they literally changed the way we people cooked, yet again. Only this time, more chefs took hold of the idea, like Alice Waters, and then grew it into a new form, and helped set it into our modern conscience.
If you love reading about these chefs, about the love of food, or about how great chefs changed how we cook, pick this one up (just don't read on an empty stomach, the food talk will MAKE you hungry!)/ It would also make a great Valentine's Day present for your favorite foodie!
About the Author:
Luke Barr is the grandnephew of M.F.K. Fisher and an editor and news director at Travel + Leisure magazine, where he has been on staff since 2003. He had been executive editor of Gear and senior editor at Brill’s Content / Inside.com. Raised in the Bay Area, he went to school in Switzerland and graduated from Harvard. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, architect Yumi Moriwaki, and their two daughters.