02 April, 2015

Remembrance of things Paris - Sixty years of writing from Gourmet, by Ruth Reichl [Ana, Central Library]

Remembrance of things Paris is a compilation of essays by food writers for Gourmet magazine in the first half of the twenty century. Ruth Reichl is the magazine's editor and writes the introduction. The writers present us with a collection of vignettes depicting the culinary life of Paris: the bistros, the chocolateries, the restaurants. One of the chapters describes Maxime's where one has to wear a tie, but an "elegant turtleneck" will be tolerated. It tells us about all the kings and queens, princes, major personalities and actors who frequented it. And there are many.

Towards the end of the book there is a section entitled Americans in Paris and the first chapter is A Memory of Alice B. Toklas, written by Naomi Barry. Alice B. Toklas was the long life companion and secretary of Gertrude Stein. Although it doesn't say this in the book, it's well known that Alice Toklas wrote The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook after Gertrude Stein's death. The book is a mixture of their life together, recipes and thoughts about French cuisine. It became famous however, because a friend of William S. Burroughs gave her a recipe which she included in her book: Hashish Fudge. She is known to have said on the radio that the snack "might provide an entertaining refreshment for a ladies Bridge Club", and then proceeded to read the recipe on air.

In Remembrance of Things Paris, Naomi Barry who has been invited to their house for lunch recounts how Alice B. gets up early and goes to lengths to get a trout which she cooks in a "sauce vert". Alice and Gertrude she says, lived in a house full of antiques, Ming porcelain and Renaissance furniture and had 37 Picassos in their dining room (Picasso was their friend).

Another American writer is Michael Lewis, whose chapter is called An Insincere Cassoulet. He says that Paris is a city of vulgarians who treat every one and each other with utter contempt, and that the whole point of living in Paris is to acquire a veneer of sophistication to impress others with your worldliness. As soon as this is accomplished, you leave.

If you want an entertaining book with anecdotes of Paris and recipes of French food, this is the book for you.

Title: Remembrance of things Paris - Sixty years of writing Gourmet 
Author: Ruth Reichl (editor)
ISBN: 9780812971934
Publisher: Modern Library
Published: 2005

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