Saturday, February 27, 2010

From Here You Can't See Paris


After our May tour last year, I picked up Michael S. Sanders' From Here You Can't See Paris: Seasons of a French Village and Its Restaurant, at Gretchen's enthusiastic recommendation.

Knowing nothing about the book, I expected something along the lines of a Quercy-centric version of Peter Mayle's Provence books: a diverting light read about the occasionally infuriating but always charming French, their glorious cuisine and their enviable lifestyle.

Sanders' book is nothing like A Year In Provence. Instead, it's a deep and beautifully written account of how a small French town is changing and adjusting, to the degree it can, to modern developments: its young people are abandoning village life and agricultural work, seeking careers in far-away cities instead, while occasionally clueless foreigners are moving in, attracted by a lifestyle their very presence is threatening.

These changes are recounted over the backdrop of one year at La Récréation, an important (and glorious!) restaurant in Les Arques. (I've written a bit about our lunch there, here and here.)

From Here You Can't See Paris covers the history of French village life, offers an unflinching look at how foie gras is made, describes the unexpectedly cutthroat world of the truffle auction, and the occasional tension between natives and ex-pats -- all while detailing the prosaic behind-the-scenes planning and preparation that lead to a magical meal at a French restaurant.

And, with all that, I've barely scratched the surface of what's in the book! I loved the book and enthusiastically recommend it to anyone with an interest in food, restaurants, or French culture...

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