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“One of the greatest books I’ve read.” —Marco Pierre White
"In Au Revoir To All That, Mike Steinberger pulls off the magic trick of throwing a funeral you want to go to: The elegy is unflinching but heartfelt and celebratory; the guests are the most interesting people; the food (and wine) couldn't get any better; and—get this—the deceased shows signs of rising again." — Benjamin Wallace, author of New York Times bestseller The Billionaire's Vinegar
"Au Revoir to All That is a fascinating and knowledgeable valedictory to the greatest food and wine culture the world has ever known. Michael Steinberger is a great gourmand and a great storyteller, and he will make you care about the fate of camembert and other endangered traditions." — Jay McInerney, author of A Hedonist in the Cellar and Bacchus & Me "Most books on food and wine are misty-eyed memoirs of great meals and happy times. Michael Steinberger's book is different; he is trying to understand the decline and fall of France as the center of the world's great cuisine. In the course of his explorations, Steinberger takes us to the kitchens of great chefs, describes extraordinary food, and evokes fond memories. The result turns out to be intelligent, interesting and complicated. You will have to read the book to get it— and you will read it with much pleasure."— Fareed Zakaria, author of The Post-American World "If you've ever wondered why eating in France is so often disapponting, Michael Steinberger can explain. His delicious account draws not just on his amazing gastronomic expertise, but on a sophisticated understanding of French politics and history as well. Three stars: this one really is worth a special trip." — Jacob Weisberg, author of The Bush Tragedy and editor of Slate "When I started going to France in the early seventies, it was difficult to find a lousy meal over there. Now the exact opposite is true. How could a country with such an esthetically magnificent culture go wrong? Steinberger's penetrating report from a declining France resonates because he clearly loves the place and feels a sense of loss. Where did their taste go? I thank him mille fois for digging into the when, wheres, hows, and whys. Anyone with the slightest interest in France will appreciate this book, too.”— Kermit Lynch, author of Adventures on the Wine Route
Posted August 8, 2010
In 225 pages, Steinberger gives an overview of the French culinary history in a way that is riveting but also full of details. Not only did I learn a lot, but it also put the French cuisine in perspective, and makes you wish you were in France to try the different types of restaurant. With great focus, he analyzes the French culinary art in France, using only sparingly the international impact. The book is about France and what this country is going about saving (or not) the great art of cooking.
I wish Steinberger would bring us a similar experience with US gastronomy.
I would recommend the book to anyone interested in the culinary art, or should I say the culinary business.
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I'm glad one of the "it is" classifications for this book allowed rating it as provocative. The book is wonderfully written, but will prompt strong feelings on both sides of the issue: has France irrevocably fallen out of contention in the world of food and wine . . . or not?
Let the debate rage! While it continues, just drop me somewhere in France. I'll eat and drink well. Meanwhile, I'll regret I've already read Michael Steinberger's wonderful book, because it was a lovely way to pass time while thinking about how pleasant dining in France can be.
Posted January 5, 2010
If you are going to try to be objective about a country we should all be aware of the core of it as well as the hearth of it ~
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Posted July 4, 2009
By Bill Marsano. Just over a decade ago, in "France on the Brink," the British reporter and francophile Jonathan Fenby examined the decline of a great nation through a variety of lenses, including her cuisine, scandal-ridden politics, stumbling economy, subsidy-dependent agriculture and extravagant welfare policies. Comes now Michael Steinberger, who focuses intently on France's declining cuisine--and uses it as a lens to view a wider catastrophe: "the end of France."
And he does a wonderful, absorbing job of it, too. Many worthy writers hoping for a James Beard Award or some other gorgeous gonfalon this year may now be wishing they'd published their books last year or held them back until next, because Michael Steinberger has put a lot of them out of the running. More over, he's done it with the sort of book that is rarely well done: the foodie's tour. Such books--"Munching Through Italy" or "Feeding in France" or whatever--are usually not much in the writing department: Take away the word "succulent" and most begin to labor. Not this one. Steinberger writes and writes well--he's brisk and sharp and slyly humorous, a pleasure to read. I suspect that's because he's not crippled by a narrow specialty. He may be Slate magazine's wine columnist, but he has covered economics, finance, sports and more for many other publications. Another flaw of Foodie Tour books is excessive enthusiam: The authors love to go somewhere and gush. Not Steinberger. He loves France and her cuisine and culture right enough, but he's pretty damned mad because they're going to h*ll in a market basket.
Restaurant standards are falling? OK, Steinberger hears out chefs who whine that no one wants to work any more, but notes that restaurateurs in general ignore the muslim population as a source of ready, job-jungry manpower. (And he give an excellent inside look at the tyrant Michelin.) Will raw-milk cheese disappear? Maybe, but more likely because of crippling laws and liabilities than giant commercial competitors. Winemakers are allowed to weep soulfully ("without wine, it would be a desert," says one), but Steinberger exposes their failure to sell their product (even to Frenchmen!) and their thirst for European Union subsidies, which is at some times pathetic (all Europe pays for French wine it doesn't get to drink) and at others fanatical (enter CRAV in Google--and stand back). He travels and dines all over with Alain Ducasse and many other chefs; notes the rise of Japanese chefs in France and French cuisine in Japan; finds restaurateurs daring enough to hire foreign chefs; wants desperately not to believe in the downward spiral but is honest enough to admit that French culinary culture is fossilized. He makes the lover's inevitable error of re-visiting a restaurant loved long ago (and is utterly, brutally crushed: "the parking lot hadn't changed a bit . . . . sadly, that was the high point of the visit"). My favorite part was the chapter on the success of McDonald's. (Among "best places to work in France," what the French call "McDo" is in the Top Ten. Who knew?) This will reduce doctrinaire foodies to foaming tantrums because it is infuriatingly fair.
Steinberger manages to do all this, and more, and entertainly and informatively, in a mere 225 pages. He seldom wastes words. A rare virtue, that, and it left me hungry for more.--Bill Marsano is
Posted January 18, 2010
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