Thursday, September 22, 2016

Variations on a Theme: La Belle France

Tomorrow, The Husband and I are heading to Europe for vacation. We start in London, before heading to the South of France and then ending in Paris. I've been to France before, and if ever move abroad, it would be here. The country's beauty and culture just speaks to me. This month's Variations on a Theme is all about France.


La Belle France
Alistair Horne

La Belle France is a sweeping, grand narrative written with all the verve, erudition, and vividness that are the hallmarks of the acclaimed British historian Alistair Horne. It recounts the hugely absorbing story of the country that has contributed to the world so much talent, style, and political innovation. Beginning with Julius Caesar’s division of Gaul into three parts, Horne leads us through the ages from Charlemagne to Chirac, touring battlefields from the Hundred Years’ War to Indochina and Algeria, and giving us luminous portraits of the nation’s leaders, philosophers, writers, artists, and composers. This is a captivating, beautifully illustrated, and comprehensive yet concise history of France.

The Seven Ages of Paris

Alistair Horne

In this luminous portrait of Paris, celebrated historian Alistair Horne gives us the history, culture, disasters, and triumphs of one of the world’s truly great cities. Horne makes plain that while Paris may be many things, it is never boring. From the rise of Philippe Auguste through the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIV (who abandoned Paris for Versailles); Napoleon’s rise and fall; Baron Haussmann’s rebuilding of Paris (at the cost of much of the medieval city); the Belle Epoque and the Great War that brought it to an end; the Nazi Occupation, the Liberation, and the postwar period dominated by de Gaulle—Horne brings the city’s highs and lows, savagery and sophistication, and heroes and villains splendidly to life. With a keen eye for the telling anecdote and pivotal moment, he portrays an array of vivid incidents to show us how Paris endures through each age, is altered but always emerges more brilliant and beautiful than ever. The Seven Ages of Paris is a great historian’s tribute to a city he loves and has spent a lifetime learning to know.

The Little Paris Kitchen: 120 Simple But Classic French Recipes
Rachael Khoo

Rachel Khoo moved to Paris, studied patisserie, fell in love with the city, became a restaurateur in a very tiny space, then, a television star, and is now a bestselling author! Not every lover of Paris experiences this career trajectory, but cooks of all skill levels with a taste for French fare will be inspired by The Little Paris Kitchen to try an updated approach to French cuisine. In this charming cookbook, Khoo demystifies French cooking with 120 enticing recipes for simple, classic, and fresh French dishes, from gouter (snacks) to elegant desserts. More than 100 breathtaking photos from celebrated photographer David Loftus shine a spotlight on the delicious food and the City of Light, and capture Khoo interacting with her purveyors and friends. We all can't have springtime in Paris. But we all can enjoy this delectable, do-able food!

The Sweet Life in Paris

David Leibovitz

Like so many others, David Lebovitz dreamed about living in Paris ever since he first visited the city in the 1980s. Finally, after a nearly two-decade career as a pastry chef and cookbook author, he moved to Paris to start a new life. Having crammed all his worldly belongings into three suitcases, he arrived, hopes high, at his new apartment in the lively Bastille neighborhood.But he soon discovered it's a different world en France. From learning the ironclad rules of social conduct to the mysteries of men's footwear, from shopkeepers who work so hard not to sell you anything to the etiquette of working the right way around the cheese plate, here is David's story of how he came to fall in love with—and even understand—this glorious, yet sometimes maddening, city. When did he realize he had morphed into un vrai parisien? It might have been when he found himself considering a purchase of men's dress socks with cartoon characters on them. Or perhaps the time he went to a bank with 135 euros in hand to make a 134-euro payment, was told the bank had no change that day, and thought it was completely normal. Or when he found himself dressing up to take out the garbage because he had come to accept that in Paris appearances and image mean everything.

Toujours Provence
Peter Mayle

Taking up where his beloved A Year in Provence leaves off, Peter Mayle offers us another funny, beautifully (and deliciously) evocative book about life in Provence. With tales only one who lives there could know—of finding gold coins while digging in the garden, of indulging in sumptuous feasts at truck stops—and with characters introduced with great affection and wit—the gendarme fallen from grace, the summer visitors ever trying the patience of even the most genial Provençaux, the straightforward dog "Boy"—Toujours Provence is a heart-warming portrait of a place where, if you can't quite "get away from it all," you can surely have a very good time trying.

At Home in France

Ann Barry

Ann Barry was a single woman, working and living in New York, when she fell in love with a charming house in Carennac in southwestern France. Even though she knew it was the stuff of fantasy, even though she knew she would rarely be able to spend more than four weeks a year there, she was hooked. This spirited, captivating memoir traces Ms. Barry's adventures as she follows her dream of living in the French countryside: Her fascinating (and often humorous) excursions to Brittany and Provence, charmed nights spent at majestic chateaux and back-road inns, and quiet moments in cool Gothic churches become our own. And as the years go by, and "l' Americaine," as she is known, returns again and again to her real home, she becomes a recognizable fixture in the neighborhood. Ann Barry is a foreigner enchanted with an unpredictable world that seems constantly fresh and exciting. In this vivid memoir, she shares the colorful world that is her France.

Other French Titles
Eiffel's Tower - Jill Jones
French Toast - Harriet Welty Rochefort
How Paris Became Paris - Joan DeJean
Parisians - Graham Robb
Paris: The Biography of a City - Colin Jones
The Perfect Meal - John Baxter
The Whole Fromage - Kathe Lison
A Year in Provence - Peter Mayle

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