John Baxter's The Perfect Meal is part grand tour of France, part history of French cuisine, taking readers on a journey to discover and savor some of the world's great cultural achievements before they disappear completely.
Some of the most revered and complex elements of French cuisine are in danger of disappearing as old ways of agriculture, butchering, and cooking fade and are forgotten. In this charming culinary travel memoir, John Baxter follows up his bestselling The Most Beautiful Walk in the World by taking his readers on the hunt for some of the most delicious and bizarre endangered foods of France.
The Perfect Meal: In Search of the Lost Tastes of France is the perfect read for foodies and Francophiles, cooks and gastronomists, and fans of food culture.
Confronting the disturbing fact that in 2011, two thirds of French restaurant owners confessed to concocting their meals with "bought, canned, frozen, or boil-in-a-bag portions," John Baxter (The Most Beautiful Walk in the World) undertakes a delightful task. He researches, in the broadest sense, the nearly forgotten techniques and ingredients of the classical foods of his adopted country. Baxter, an Australian who now resides in Paris, crisscrosses the literary, historical, and geographical landscape in search of emblematic French foods including roasted ox, bouillabaisse, and ortolans, those tiny birds drowned in Armagnac and eaten whole, with a napkin draped over the diner's head. What emerges from his travels is a spicy, humor-filled accounting of the culinary and literary history of a nation defined by its gastronomy. Baxter touches on the reason French people don't like cake, the poetic rightness of onion soup, what makes the truffle the plutonium of vegetation, and why the French never embraced vegetarianism. "To eat meat, the leaner the better, signifies prosperity," Baxter writes. This is one of those delicious books that tickles the psyche, seduces the senses, and effortlessly enlarges the intellect simultaneously. Baxter skillfully blends what could be considered merely entertaining food trivia into a satisfying full-course meal.