A rich, lively book about the upheaval in French gastronomy, set against the backdrop of France's diminishing fortunes as a nation.
France is in a rut, and so is French cuisine. Twenty-five years ago, it was hard to have a bad meal in France; now, in some cities and towns, it is a challenge to find a good one. For the first time in the annals of modern cooking, the most influential chefs and the most talked-about restaurants in the world are not French. Within France, large segments of the wine industry are in crisis, cherished artisanal cheeses are threatened with extinction, and bistros and brasseries are disappearing at an alarming rate. But business is brisk at some establishments: Astonishingly, France has become the second-most-profitable market in the world for McDonalds. How did this happen?
To find out, Michael Steinberger takes an enviable trip through the traditional pleasures of France. He talks to top chefs (Alain Ducasse, Paul Gagnaire, Paul Bocuse), winemakers, farmers, bakers, and other artisans. He visits the Élysée Palace, interviews the head of McDonald's Europe, marches down a Paris boulevard with Jos Bov, and breaks bread with the editorial director of the powerful and secretive Michelin Guide.
He spends hours with some of Frances brightest young chefs and winemakers, who are battling to reinvigorate the countrys rich culinary heritage. The result is a sharp and funny book that will give Francophiles everywhere an entirely new perspective - political, economic, personal, and cultural - on the crisis in the country and food they love.
"A culinary expedition through France hunting for the root of the slow decline of the country’s acclaimed food and wine traditions... Steinberger’s meticulous research and personal hunger for objective truths bring surprising discoveries to light... connected to the larger issue of who or what defines modern France and, by extension, its food. An offering of fresh and engaging insights for foodies and Francophiles alike." (Kirkus Reviews)
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Decline and Fall of the Culture of Gourmandism
Great Insight into the Decline of French Food/Wine
The insights I gained into the decline of France's leadership role in food and wine and some of the reasons for it, most of which I wouldn't have guessed at. It's a great bridge to cross from the idea of France we have as the world leader in food and wine compared to today.
The influence (and later decline in influence) of the Michelin Guide -- mainly because the author covered it a few times too often. :) It was also interesting to get insight into the people behind the names we've come to recognize (Paul Bocuse, et al.).
The narrator was excellent. In fact, I could change the speed to 1.25 or 1.5 and still follow it beautifully -- a first.
The best France we know exists in our minds and is already gone.
I'm glad I read this. The price is an absolute bargain. It's definitely changed my outlook and understanding of a world I thought I knew but had perhaps romanticized.
- Robert R.