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.
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Using letters, journals, and a gift for splendid prose, the great-nephew of iconic food writer M.F.K. Fisher brings to life a historic gathering of America’s culinary pioneers—and their passions, restlessness, and visionary ideas.
M.F.K. Fisher's great-nephew Barr, a Travel + Leisure editor, uses considerable research to recreate a momentous convergence of preeminent American food writers in Provence in the fall of 1970 that determined not only the trajectory of their subsequent careers but the direction of American food culture as well. France, of course, was the training ground for these writers, starting with Fisher and her bold, sensual 1937 primer on eating, Serve It Forth; journalist James Beard and his 1952 Paris Cuisine; Julia Child and Simone Beck with their wildly popular 1961 landmark, Mastering the Art of French Cooking; artist and longtime Francophile Richard Olney and his authentic, passionate The French Menu Cookbook. Yet as of 1970, they were all still finding their voices and styles. While Olney lived permanently in Sollies-Toucas, the Childs and Becks had adjacent country houses at La Pitchoune, and the others were visiting nearby Provencal towns, joined by their longtime Knopf editor Judith Jones, her husband, and a prickly aristocratic couple, Eda Lord and Sybille Bedford. The personalities mixed uneasily, like oil and water, during long, elaborate communal dinners held at various group members' homes. Barr, a felicitous stylist, derives much of his account from Fisher's journal of the time, when she was in her early 60s, living a solitary existence between California and France, and trying to settle on her next literary project: French or American? Barr finds delightful fodder for foodies.
I loved every page of this book! So well written and every character and I do mean character comes alive in the most charming and authentic way. Thoroughly delightful and insightful about the changing tastes in food and thought of that era! Derived from journals, diaries and journals it speaks from each person’s perspective and although basically a memoir it reads like a novel. I hated to have the journey with them end!
Bravo Mr. Barr! You captured something very special!
I felt very Holden Caulfield and would loved to have called you to tell you how much I enjoyed the journey back to Provence and 1970! Thank You!
I knew so much already about each of the individuals, but their interactions with each other that year of 1970, were a total revelation. The humanity of each of the major players, their strengths and weaknesses, gave them a reality as people, not just as stars of the world of cuisine.
I did not want the book to end. I enjoyed and savored each page.
This was an amazing time 1970, with everyone that was written about being in the forefront of the food movement that we love and appreciate today