“Let’s Eat France!” by François-Régis Gaudry, Artisan Books, 432 pages, hardcover, $50
Prominent French food journalist François-Régis Gaudry has written an entertaining, oversized — it’s almost 6 pounds — guide to his country’s food and culinary culture.
The publisher, Artisan Books, describes “Let’s Eat France!” as a gift book, and the large volume would, indeed, make a perfect gift for any Francophile and food lover.
A result of two years of research and collaboration with food artisans, academics cooks, confectioners and sommeliers, “Let’s Eat France!” is stuffed with lots of fun facts about French cuisine. It includes 375 classic recipes, 260 personality profiles, information on 1,250 specialty foods, illustrated regional maps of France’s cheeses, breads, wines, beers, pastries, honey, oysters and other ingredients, plus tips and anecdotes.
It is organized differently than any book about food I’ve ever read. There are no chapters or categories nor any discernible reason, for example, of a discussion of food on the move by sea, air and land being next to information on walnuts and hazelnuts and the International Organization of Vine and Wine. A profile on chef Auguste Escoffier is near info on French honey and a love letter to the soufflé.
You’ll learn about French delicacies born by accidental discovery, along with the recipe for tarte Tatin and how to open a bottle of Champagne in three moves.
Thank goodness for the book’s extensive index. It’s a necessity for returning to a recipe you might want to try. However, that unusual organization also means armchair travelers and French food fans will delight in joyful discoveries on every page.
Speaking of discoveries, when testing the recipe for what the author says is the best Parisian madeleine, I realized (after taking my photographs of the baked little cakes) that the bump or puff side, not the side with the shell design, is considered the madeleine’s top.
Cheramie Sonnier is a food writer and columnist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter, @CheramieSonnier.