A "delicious" (Dorie Greenspan), "genial" (Kirkus Reviews), "very cool book about the intersections of food and history" (Michael Pollan)—as featured in the New York Times
"The complex political, historical, religious and social factors that shaped some of [France's] . . . most iconic dishes and culinary products are explored in a way that will make you rethink every sprinkling of fleur de sel."
—The New York Times Book Review
Acclaimed upon its hardcover publication as a "culinary treat for Francophiles" (Publishers Weekly), A Bite-Sized History of France is a thoroughly original book that explores the facts and legends of the most popular French foods and wines. Traversing the cuisines of France's most famous cities as well as its underexplored regions, the book is enriched by the "authors' friendly accessibility that makes these stories so memorable" (The New York Times Book Review). This innovative social history also explores the impact of war and imperialism, the age-old tension between tradition and innovation, and the enduring use of food to prop up social and political identities.
The origins of the most legendary French foods and wines—from Roquefort and cognac to croissants and Calvados, from absinthe and oysters to Camembert and champagne—also reveal the social and political trends that propelled France's rise upon the world stage. As told by a Franco-American couple (Stéphane is a cheesemonger, Jeni is an academic) this is an "impressive book that intertwines stories of gastronomy, culture, war, and revolution. . . . It's a roller coaster ride, and when you're done you'll wish you could come back for more" (The Christian Science Monitor).
Husband-and-wife authors H nault and Mitchell serve up a fascinating history of France through food. They discuss Marie Antoinette's notorious phrase "let them eat cake" (which the authors maintain she never actually said in response to being told "the people of France had no more bread to eat") and the role sugar played in the city of Nantes, known for its rum-soaked vanilla cake (due to France's slave-based sugar-cane plantations in the Caribbean, the city developed sugar refineries in the late 17th century). Referring to Napoleon's famous adage "an army marches on its stomach" the authors recount an omen involving his flipping of crepes ahead of his failed invasion of Moscow (he flipped four crepes perfectly as a sign of good luck, but the fifth fell into the flames). The authors share some intriguing facts: a country as small as France, for example, produces five million tons of potatoes yearly. The authors also discuss the country's drastically declining bee population, which caused French honey production to drop from 30,000 tons in the early 1990s to 10,000 tons in 2014. H nault and Mitchell are often witty (perhaps most amusingly illustrated by a chapter called "War and Peas") even as they present their exceptionally well-researched material. This culinary history is a treat for Francophiles.
Simply The Best Foodie Book
Ok...I felt a tinge if sadness when I finished this comprehensive book. Having the pleasure of reading it while in France brought a tangible taste to its chapters. If you have a love for food, history, and everything comical in between, you must read this book...err...again and again...