Friday, February 22, 2008

First We Eat

Do you remember seeing Chocolat based on the book by Joanne Harris and salivating for the entire two hours (over chocolate and sometimes Johnny Depp)? This is another book by the same author that makes you equally hungry as you read it.

The story takes place in the Loire Valley of France, alternating between war-time (WWII) France and decades later. It is a mystery that unravels slowly and lets you down easily from all your misconceptions at the end.

The story touches on many aspects of the war, including the blackmarket and the resistance. But it’s really not about the war, but about personal interactions focused on a German soldier named Tomas. It even includes the pursuit of an elusive big fish who comes with a wealth of folklore. It’s about mothers and daughters and their inability to communicate. And it’s definitely about food.

A common thread of the story is the book left behind by Mirabelle Dartigen and bequeathed to her daughter Francoise. The book contains not only the award-winning recipes of the mother but snippets of her descent into madness.

Within the first 50 pages the reader is tempted by a terrine, rillettes, buckwheat pancakes, and raspberry liquor. Since it is my choice (recommended to me by my friend Kris), I decided we simply had to eat before talking about the book.

Yesterday afternoon I made a terrine of ground turkey, chicken livers, ham, and lots of mushrooms. Kris made smoked salmon rillettes. Today I will make warm potato-lentil salad and buckwheat pancakes and crepes for dessert. We will drink kirs, made from creme de cassis and white wine, as we eat this country French supper.

I hope everyone else loved the book as much as I did. I’m sure Mamie Framboise would have made something more elegant, but with luck my take on a French dinner will get us warmed up for a lively discussion of the book.


Blogger Kristin said...

I have wanted to read this book for awhile. Now I have to get it. I'm already salivating.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- The story is as appealing as the title.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I'm not sure a book would have me salivating unless it was a picture book!

I really liked that movie and Johnny Depp was great. I didn't like him in Charlie and The Chocolate was too bizarre...I didn't finish watching it!

4:16 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

Loved Chocolat! Now I will have to get this one. Have you read Loving Frank about Frank Lloyd Wright by Nancy Horan or North River by Pete Hamill? Both are beautifully written.

7:59 PM  
Blogger kimy said...

enjoy joanne harris's novels AND her incredible cookbooks - the french kitchen and french market - the photographs put the cookbook into the category of coffee table book.

I thought I had read five quarters, but now I think I must not have - altho I did have it on order at the library at one time, it must have come in when I was away. thanks for tweaking my memory. will have to renew the hold....

sounds as if you and kris can give joanne a run in terms of cooking. yum!

7:40 AM  
Blogger Ruth D~ said...

Good review. The book is on my "to read list."

9:34 PM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

I remember reading this book and loving the descriptions of the food. If I remember the plot, all of that lovely food didn't make the people very happy... well, that and it being occupied during WWII and all..

a very good read, tho!

2:23 AM  
Blogger Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

Loved the book. I just had a few minor quibbles such as how a woman of that period in the Loire valley would know the first thing about ratatouille, a provençal specialty. But that's just me - a terrible perfectionist and living in Southwestern France, to boot...
(P.S. followed the link from Reya Melliker)
P.P.S. hope you and your loved one are all better.

8:16 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

RuthD -- Yes, do read it!

Kelly -- You are right. They seemed to take the food for granted in their youth. It was only much later that the recipes became coveted and a big source for the family conflict.

Lee -- I missed the mention of ratatouille in the book, probably because I was so caught up with the foods that are specialties of the Loire valley. I would love to know more about where you are in southwestern France, having spent one of our best vacations in Lourmarin and the surrounding area. Welcome to my Blog!

9:21 AM  

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