From My Library: At Home In France (2000)

Dear Readers,

I discovered At Home In France: Eating and Entertaining with the French by journalist Christopher Petkanas recently, and wanted to share it with you. Sadly, it is out of print, but you can still find decent used copies here. 

As an American living in France at the time, Mr. Petkanas presents a stunning array of French cuisine and an extensive discussion of the multifaceted French l'art de recevoir (which translates as "the art of receiving" or "entertaining").  He takes us from the palatial Château de Courances, completed in 1630, to a rugged goat farm in Sivergues in the South of France (population: 40). The author includes 70 authentic French recipes, many handed down for generations, accompanied by glorious photography. Food history at its best.

Mr. Petkanas also had the golden opportunity to interview (and eat with) Ms. Simone 'Simca' Beck at her home on the Riviera, Le Mas Vieux, shortly before her death.  Ms. Beck co-authored the famous two-volume Mastering the Art of French Cooking with Julia Child, and was a true culinary genius.  She studied for many years under Henri-Paul Pellaprat, a founder of Le Cordon Bleu, who was a powerful influence in her future success: Ms. Beck once said,

Before I met Pellaprat I had no intention of making food my métier.  All I wanted was to be able to receive friends better. He’s still the one I put above everybody else.  Pellaprat was the clearest, the simplest, and most direct.  I’m still making the hollandaise he taught me in 1934.

I read this book, studied the recipes, and concluded that not only do I know nothing of real cooking (and eating), but that I know nothing about real living, either.  Someone once said that the French are much more concerned with having a life than making a living, and nowhere does this come out more startlingly than in their embrace of good food and l'art de recevoir.

I hope you enjoy At Home In France as much as I did!  

Yours Truly,

Sarah