A Taste of Paris
A Taste of Paris: A History of the Parisian Love Affair with Food
It isn't often that one can use the phrase "a history book with mouthfeel," but David Downie's A Taste of Paris fits that description better than most. The publisher poses the question, "What is it about the history of Paris that has made it a food lover's paradise?" Downie, who has been writing about food and Paris since the 1980s, is happy to supply the answers in 304 pages of engaging, appetizing prose.
A Taste of Paris (subtitled "A History of the Parisian Love Affair with Food") begins with an "Aperitif," which describes how the author had a "foretaste of the fun" in store for him when he first visited Paris as a young man in 1976. A decade later, he moved to Paris, living in a "seventh-floor, cold-water walk-up maid's room" while "mapping out Paris' gastronomic topography--the markets, stores, restaurants, and cafés that became my second home."
As the book progresses, it jumps from the present to the past (and forward again), chronicling Parisian culinary life in Roman times, the medieval era, the heyday of Versailles, and the two-plus centuries since the French Revolution. The author delivers a few surprises along the way:
A small number of recipes and cooking tips are also scattered throughout the book. Here's the author's translation of a recipe for roast peacock or swan from Guillaume Tirel, a.k.a. Taillevent, the 14th Century chef whose nom de cuisine has been borrowed by a Michelin-starred restaurant:
(Note: The above recipe is from a chapter titled "Cry Fowl," which demonstrates the author's knack for a catchy phrase.)
But there's more to A Taste of Paris than food history, royal gossip, punalicious phrases, and medieval culinary tips. In Part 10, "Digestif," Mr. Downie addresses topics such as Nouvelle Cuisine and whether French food is in decline. "How long have critics bewailed the death of the novel?" Mr. Downie asks. "Hint: about as long as others have lamented the death of French cooking."
David Downie's A Taste of Paris: A History of the Parisian Love Affair with Food is a delightful book for anyone who's interested in Paris, food, or--better yet--both. It's also the perfect gift for any foodie or Francophile.
Taste of Paris: A History of the Parisian Love Affair with Food
David D. Downie
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