This week, I’m sharing the 21 books I’ve read in 2011. Yesterday, I shared the books I’ve read on the subject of Edgar Cayce . Today, I’m sharing the books I’ve read on French and European culture: fairy tales, French royalty, Americans in France, and French cuisine – a well rounded look into life in France. The reason why I selected this subject matter this year is clear: I live in France and I’m passionate about Her history and cuisine!
5. Old French Fairy Tales by Sophie Segur
I got this book in the event that I’m a parent to a French child, I want to be well-versed in French fairytales. Fairy godmothers, genies, princesses and princes these wonderful and loving characters face death, enemies and challenges as told in their French cultural background. What would a child do to save a dying parent? How will a beautiful, yet innocently threatening princess cast out to be cared for by her fairy godmother deal with her jealous sisters and uncaring parents? Is curiosity a bad character trait that one must overcome? These stories are old and they teach morals and values to children through epic and imaginative tales, even if at times they can be quite predictable.
This book reads like one of the most verbose university level books I had to suffer through while studying international affairs. It’s political history combined with a thorough biographical look into one of France’s most famous and notorious personalities in the Royal family. Certainly not a quick read, full of “difficult” language and definitely for the patient reader, but it’s subject matter is interesting and extremely detailed. I have to admit that I spent much of the time imagining Kirsten Dunst as Marie thanks to Sofia Coppola’s film version.
This was by far one of my favorite reads in 2011. A shining and vivid look into Julia Child’s life and career as a chef and writer, she not only talks about all the great food she’s tasted and created, but her journey as a wife and partner for her husband, and how living in France affected their politics, their relationships, and general outlook on life. When she describes France, her landscape and her people, she’s dead on. The humor, the humility, and the general will of simply pushing onward through life’s uncertainties and challenges were what I related to in Julia Child. I have to say I teared up during certain points of the book, it was like she was telling my story in terms of adjusting to life in France.
Of course, after reading My Life In France, I immediately ordered Mastering The Art of French Cooking and no sooner than I received the book in the mail did I run to the grocery store in preparation of an authentic French meal. My favorites are the veal scallops, the garlic mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, and the lemon tarte. I even tried some recipes on Mr J’s family and his 101 year old Papi hungrily devoured these dishes, complimenting me on their “exceptional flavor”. If an honest to God elderly Frenchman loves Julia Child’s almost scientific recipes, then she has certainly succeeded in her life’s work. Easy to read, full of tidbits and hints and I just love how she advises which wine to pair with what type of meals and what side dishes are best served main dishes. C’est parfait!
My friend Andy Brabon takes us into France’s roughest, toughest, and proudest regions: the French alps. These mountain people are rugged and are no nonsense about their favorite alpine dishes. Dishes like fondue, raclette, tartiflette. Of course, desserts, beverages, and side dishes rich in flavor are included in this recipe book broken down for English readers who want to take this mini book home as gifts or as a part of their recipe library. Read my review of Andy Brabon’s Savoie Fayre.
Andy Brabon’s second book in his French cuisine battery is Provencal Recipes which includes the best of France’s Provence and Cote D’Azur recipes. If you’re looking for cuisine that’s light, fresh, and full of flavor, then Provencal Recipes is the cookbook of the year’s warmer seasons. Set up like Savoie Fayre, there are tidbits in culture, preparation, and serving. Not to mention the list of farmers’ markets in order to locate the finest and freshest ingredients in France’s southern regions. Read my review of Andy Brabon’s Provencal Recipes.
The effervescent and deliciously sweet Katherine Chloe Cahoon writes the ultimate guide in helping single women find their ideal European man in her first book, The Single Girl’s Guide To Meeting European Men. It’s cheeky, fun, and full of information of finding the right man depending on the country, location, and relationship style. She encourages women to be bolder, smarter, and daring in their search for love (or an unforgettable romantic experience). I couldn’t help giggling at certain parts of the book. It’s a quick and fun read that can act as a reference guide for the woman traveling through Europe whether on business or pleasure. Read my review of Katherine Chloe Cahoon’s The Single Girl’s Guide To Meeting European Men and exclusive interview with Cahoon.