Provence, 1970

  • by Luke Barr
  • Narrated by John Rubinstein
  • 9 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.

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What the Critics Say

“Luke Barr has inherited the clear and inimitable voice of his great-aunt M.F.K. Fisher, and deftly portrays a crucial turning point in the history of food in America with humor, intimacy and deep perception. This book is beautifully written and totally fascinating to me, because these were my mentors—they inspired a generation of cooks in this country.” —Alice Waters
 
“Luke Barr conjures the past and pries open the window on a little known moment in time that had profound implications on how we live today. With an insider’s access, a detective’s curiosity, and a poet’s sensitivity, he illuminates a culinary clique that not only changed the way we eat, but how we think about food. Provence, 1970 is as much a meditation on the nature of transition and the role of friendship, as it is on the power of food to unite, divide, and ultimately nourish the soul. For this a ‘non-foodie’ it was a revelation—for the connoisseur among us, it may well be orgiastic.” —Andrew McCarthy, author of The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down
 
“Luke Barr has brought the icons of the food world vibrantly to life and captured the moment when their passion for what's on the plate sparked a cultural breakthrough.  His graceful prose provides a thorough, affecting account of their talents and reveals how their disparate personalities defined the very essence of French cuisine.” —Bob Spitz, author of Dearie
 
“Brilliant conversation, dimmed lights, culinary intrigue, urchin mousse, a glass of Sauternes . . . Luke Barr has written one of the most delicious and sensuous books of all time. It brims with love of food and wine.” —Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook and Super Sad True Love Story

“Luke Barr has written a lovely, shimmering, immersive secret history of an important moment that nobody knew was important at the time.”
—Kurt Andersen
 
“Luke Barr has written a wonderful, sun-dappled account of the pleasures of cooking and eating in good company. With the deftest of touches, he describes a gathering of celebrated chefs—including Julia Child, his great-aunt M. F. K. Fisher, James Beard, and Richard Olney—and the way their American palates transformed French culinary rules for a homegrown audience. Both a meditation on the power of friendship and the uses of nostalgia, Provence, 1970 is the kind of book you want to linger with as long as possible.”
—Daphne Merkin

“Luke Barr paints an intimate portrait of the ambitious, quarrelsome, funny, hungry pioneers who brought about a great culinary shift—the ending of the classical era, and the beginning of a newly experimental, wide-ranging, ambitious cuisine, one that was inspired by France but was quintessentially American in style and flavor. Provence, 1970 gives a front-row seat to the creation of modern American cooking.”
—Alex Prud'homme, co-author with Julia Child of My Life in France


From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Superb Narration, Engrossing Tale

Would you consider the audio edition of Provence, 1970 to be better than the print version?

I'd consider them equal, depending on one's preference. The narrator is mostly quite good.


What other book might you compare Provence, 1970 to and why?

Reflexions by Richard Olney would be a good companion read to this.


What does John Rubinstein bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

A very good narrator, I just wish men would learn not to attempt women's voices, as Rubinstein does to a small degree when speaking M.F.K. Fisher. I never like this. It always reminds me of Norman Bates speaking as his mother to some degree. To Rubinstein's credit, it's a small degree of annoyance, nothing that matters much as some others do (listen to the narrator of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt released on the same day -- much worse [in that case I decided to forego the audiobook as a result]).


Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No, but it enriched my understanding, gave a different perspective somewhat, and showed these people such as Julia Child more humanly than their public personas allowed.


Any additional comments?

It's the first audiobook that makes me want to start all over after I've finished.

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- Robert R. "Bohemian Bon Vivant"

What conversations they must have had!

I found this book interesting reading for several reasons. The first is that it gave me more information about and insight into Richard Olney and M.F.K. Fisher, and their work. And then it brought them together with our more well known friends the Childs, Judith Jones, James Beard, and Simone Beck for various rousing encounters. This book was just an all around feast.
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- kgohl "I'm a retired book editor who likes to grumble about things."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-22-2013
  • Publisher: Random House Audio