- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From Barnes & NobleOur Review
The Politics of Cuisine
Will the Big Mac be the death of France? That's the main question posed to France's greatest chefs and, less famous but equally esteemed, local farmers, bakers, butchers, and vintners by journalist and culinary author Mort Rosenblum in his delectable new book, A Goose in Toulouse. It's a controversial question because the Big Mac is often taken as a xenophobic symbol of anything that isn't French. Although Rosenblum does engage several French people in discussions of racism, immigration, and the role of the European Union, the book's focus is whether the increasing presence of fast food in France (800-plus McDonald's restaurants and counting) is going to result in the decline of French civilization.
To most Americans, the idea is absurd. What harm could a greasy burger do to an entire country, other than to perhaps raise its collective weight and cholesterol? But in France, where Sundays are defined by elaborate, multi-generational family lunches, and where, as Montesquieu has said, people dine, not eat, a move toward Big Macs and away from bouillabaisse is cause for considerable national concern.
The French do, it seems, live to eat. Even the simplest fare is prepared to the utmost quality. Mealtime is not just a time to relax and refuel, but also a defining moment in the day. But these days, French cooks, professional and domestic, are waging a veritable battle against the forces of humanity and nature to hold onto their beloved foods.
It is these conflicts that make A Goose in Toulouse so enjoyable and interesting. More than just a collection of anecdotes about eating in France, the book is a complex study of a culture whose palate and attitude toward food has been both revered and ridiculed. Through his intimate interviews, Rosenblum, an accomplished political journalist, brings together unique perspectives on the great Big Mac debate, the European Union's food-targeted bureaucracy, and the influence of the Michelin guide, or as Rosenblum calls it, "the red Bible."
Rosenblum entices us with phenomenal details of every scrumptious, multiple-course meal he eats and then takes us behind the scenes and into the kitchens and marches of France so we can understand the cook's perspective. "Cooking well is just like making love to a partner," says Chef Bruno, a.k.a. the Truffle King, an exuberant Emeril Lagasse-like character. It's a sentiment that's been emoted before, but within the context of a chef in his kitchen, ruminating on truffles, the culinary Holy Grail, it has infinitely more meaning.
Taking readers from the rustic countryside to bustling Paris, Rosenblum traverses diverse culinary and cultural territory, and every step is an absolute delight. A Goose in Toulouse is the perfect read for the food lover and the armchair traveler. Just make sure you have some wine, baguettes, and Brie on hand -- Rosenblum's elegant prose is sure to make your mouth water.
Emily Burg is a freelance writer who has visited McDonald's all across Europe, but only to use the clean, free bathrooms.