When "Gourmet" magazine folded in November 2009, readers lost not only a wonderful source of recipes but some fascinating articles that took them around the world. In "Remembrance of Things Paris," a collection of essays from sixty years of the magazine, editor Ruth Reichl pulls out not only the best of the "food" posts about Paris but also features that visited other spots in the City of Light.
Through the eyes of several journalists, we get to step behind the scenes at such spots as Cartier's, the Druout auction house and the House of Dior.
The first few offerings visit Paris after World War II, noting the changes this devastating event made on the city and its cooking. One that particularly touched me was a selection by George Bijur in which he visits his old phonetics teacher after the war and is subsequently invited to the old man's home for a memorable chicken dinner.
While it may have been a magazine for those who love food, the articles I loved best both in Gourmet and in this book were about Paris itself, many by Joseph Wechsberg or Naomi Berry. Wechsberg takes readers to such intriguing places as Librarie Salet (a gourmet and rare cookbook shop) , the Parisian Police Museum, the Musee du Cinema and introduces readers to the "nose" of Guerlain, makers of internationally renowned perfumes.
He also takes viewers to the Marche aux Fleurs (one of my favorite places).
And he gets a rare interview with the man who made Berthillon a "must visit" spot for anyone traveling to Paris.
New Yorker architecture critic looks at "The New Face of Paris," buildings created in more recent decades that are nothing like the classic Haussman-type architecture we see.
Chef Patric Kuh writes about his earliest experiences working in a professional kitchen in "When I was Green," in which he had to master the essential art of asparagus.
Michael Lewis, author of "Moneyball" and "The Big Short" tells of his parents' visit to Paris and his commitment to make an authentic cassoulet -- which isn't that easy to do when mom is in the kitchen. (He shares the recipe.)
Several pieces look at the old Les Halles market and the new Halles at Rungis, all with great nostalgia for what was lost when the great food market, the "belly of Paris," was moved out of town.
And with Llian Langseth Christiansen we step into a private post-Christening party -- no small thing! (Menu included!)
Editor Judith Jones and her husband, Evan, recall a Christmas in Paris. Jones was the editor who took a chance on a young cookbook author named Julia Child. Her story was one of my favorites, perhaps because of her reference to the delightful bakery, Poilane, one Rick and I visited several years ago.
Another renowned American, Alice B. Toklas is fondly remembered. One never lunched at Alice's in a hurry!
But should you think that restaurants and bistros are left out, think again. Both Wechsberg and Berry cover the bistro scene. Wechsberg visits a restaurant seeing its star power in "When Michelin comes Calling," and "The Young Chefs of Paris" (written in 1979) features "newcomers" at the time.
Frank J. Prial vsits some wine vendors.
Two splendid pieces focus on the legendary Belle Epoch restaurant, Maxim's, while Naomi Berry also looks at Paris ' Haute Chocolaterie and visits many well regarded chocolatiers, bringing back recipes from the Hotel Meurice, Le Crillon, the Ritz and more.
Indeed, for the intrepid cook (particularly one with a budget to play with) there is much to enjoy in this delightful book of mostly short selections, long after the last page is turned!
I've had this book on my shelf for too long and now wonder why I didn't read it cover to cover at the first opportunity. Perhaps it was meant to be saved for now, when the thought of returning to Paris and the reality of that possibility seem like polar opposites. In these selections I was taken to spots Í have visitied and those into which I'd probably never be allowed in. But oh, that I could!
This post is part of Paris in July, a blog event focusing on food, music, films, style, books, travel and all things Parisian and French. For links to other Paris in July posts, visit HERE. (Another Paris in July post visiting the arts square Place du Tertre is below.)
Sharing with: Paris in July / Let's Keep in Touch / Pink Saturday
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