Sunday, December 28, 2014

Provence, 1970

Having been born in 1966, most of my childhood memories are from the 1970's. I recall seeing episodes of Julia Child's program on our local PBS channel on a few occasions. I grew up in a family of women who cooked, mostly out of the necessity to make the weekly paycheck stretch as far as possible. My parent's tilled up half of our urban Iowa back yard and grew gorgeous and plentiful vegetable gardens each summer. Eating out was a luxury few in my neighborhood could indulge in.

I have an idea that people like me and my family were a part of the revolution in food that some of those giants in the food scene who gathered in Provence in 1970 had in mind. The shift from French cuisine and technique being the "be all and end all" of the food world to a more open and inclusive (not to mention casual and local) approach to cooking paved the way for things like the Food Network--one of the "go to" channels at my house.

Barr's memoir is written in a very easy, approachable style. Although I only knew some of the food writers/celebrities mentioned on the cover of the book, I felt it was easy to become not only acquainted, but somewhat intimate with each of them by the end of the book. (I had not heard of Richard Olney--despite his being from the same state in which I reside--until this book.) Barr underwent thorough and extensive research through personal letters and archived materials on each of the chefs and gourmands in putting together the events which transpired during that time when there was a shift in thinking in the world of food. It is a very well written book!

I found it interesting to see what sorts of food these "giants" put together when they gathered for social affairs. Menus and wine lists were fascinating, even though I have virtually no knowledge of wine. (Because I do watch a lot of cooking shows and have read a lot of cookbooks, I found the talk about food choices and preparations much easier to follow!)

If you enjoy food, history, celebrity chefs, France, travel, or will enjoy Provence, 1970. I would like to thank Blogging For Books for the free copy of Provence, 1970 in exchange for this review.

From the Publisher . . .

Provence, 1970 is about a singular historic moment. In the winter of that year, more or less coincidentally, the iconic culinary figures James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, Richard Olney, Simone Beck, and Judith Jones found themselves together in the South of France. They cooked and ate, talked and argued, about the future of food in America, the meaning of taste, and the limits of snobbery. Without quite realizing it, they were shaping today’s tastes and culture, the way we eat now. The conversations among this group were chronicled by M.F.K. Fisher in journals and letters—some of which were later discovered by Luke Barr, her great-nephew. In Provence, 1970, he captures this seminal season, set against a stunning backdrop in cinematic scope—complete with gossip, drama, and contemporary relevance.

About the Author . . .
Luke Barr is an editor at Travel + Leisure magazine. A great-nephew of M.F.K. Fisher, he was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Switzerland, and graduated from Harvard. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and their two daughters.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Bowl of Olives

This evocative little book lead me down a fragrant memory lane even as Midda shares her own journey of food-induced memories. What a pleasant stroll! Each page a feast for the eye, A Bowl of Olives by Sara Midda is a cornucopia of lovely little watercolor illustrations, photos, quotes, prose, and recipes.

Food, for many people, is the currency of relationships--the thing around which we gather with family and friends to make memories, celebrate milestones, or dive deeply into the present moment. Simply smelling the fragrance of a remembered dish can unleash an avalanche of images, feelings, tastes, and more from a time long past. Cookies or bread baking in the oven trigger memories of my childhood. A whiff of chicken frying will bring to mind summer picnics. Squash recalls me to fall dinners served which gathered a busy household together if only for an all-too-brief moment at the table.

A Bowl of Olives is my first exposure to Sara Midda's work. What a delight all her petite, delicate watercolor illustrations are! I love the feel of the pages. The color, the layouts provide such pleasure!

Because the book centers on the illustrations, it is a very quick read at only 128 pages. Seasoned with a smattering of quotes, Midda's memories, and recipes (some of them are just the bare bones!) . . . readers will find themselves savoring not only Midda's offerings, but the reflections of meals and dishes past too. I highly recommend this book to all who love food, visual arts, great paper, and books in general!

I am so thankful for the opportunity to review Sara Midda's latest offering, A Bowl of Olives, and thankful to Shelf Awareness for the complimentary copy!

From the publisher...

From the author of the international bestseller In and Out of the Garden and the wondrous sketchbook Sara Midda’s South of France comes a long-awaited treasure of a book. Drawn from the artist’s wealth of impressions and memories, it is a book for lovers of food and art and fine gift books—a book for anyone who, upon arriving in a new town, seeks first the local market, or who believes the best thing to do on a given night is to share a table with friends.

Sara Midda is a watercolorist whose delicate and beautiful paintings shine like jewels, evoking the sweet purple taste of a summer raspberry or the silvery greens and gnarled burnt umber of an olive grove. And she is also a collagist, weaving together photographs, line drawings, her personal swatches—all the hues of a spice cabinet, or the sensations of a picnic, the colors of the breeze, sunshine, laughter, the cooling grass. And a poet, in love with words that sing, like podding and wicker, nettle and snug.

By turns reverent and playful, A Bowl of Olives is a work of pure enchantment, celebrating food—of the seasons, of family, of travel and memory. It is as richly layered as a favorite meal.

The book is cloth-bound, jacketed, and printed on uncoated stock to convey the feeling of an artist’s sketchbook.

About the author...

Sara Midda is an artist who lives in West Sussex, England, and previously lived in the south of France. Her most recent book is Artisan’s children’s activity book How to Build an A.