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White Truffles in Winter

White Truffles in Winter

3.7 7
by N. M. Kelby

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A breathtaking novel, rare and moving, about the world's greatest chef and his unruly heart.White Truffles in Winter imagines the world of the remarkable French chef Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935), who changed how we eat through his legendary restaurants at the Savoy and the Ritz. A man of contradictions—kind yet imperious, food-obsessed yet rarely


A breathtaking novel, rare and moving, about the world's greatest chef and his unruly heart.White Truffles in Winter imagines the world of the remarkable French chef Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935), who changed how we eat through his legendary restaurants at the Savoy and the Ritz. A man of contradictions—kind yet imperious, food-obsessed yet rarely hungry—Escoffier was also torn between two women: the famous, beautiful, and reckless actress Sarah Bernhardt and his wife, the independent and sublime poet Delphine Daffis, who refused ever to leave Monte Carlo. In the last year of Escoffier's life, in the middle of writing his memoirs, he has returned to Delphine, who requests a dish in her name as he has honored Bernhardt, Queen Victoria, and many others. How does one define the complexity of love on a single plate? N. M. Kelby brings us the sensuality of food and love amid a world on the verge of war in this work that shimmers with beauty and longing.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Delphine Daffis is dying, and she wants her husband, French chef August Escoffier (famous for his restaurants, the Savoy and the Ritz), to create a dish named after her, as he has done for his lover, Sara Bernhardt, and countless others, even Queen Victoria. He had always refused, saying “one should never attempt to define the sublime” but Delphine didn’t believe him for a minute. Kelby (Whale Season) uses these historical figures to tell her story, set as WWII looms, and Escoffier has returned to his long estranged wife in Monte Carlo to write his memoir, The Complete Escoffier: A Memory in Meals. Delphine hires Sabine, a local beauty stricken with polio as kitchen help to persuade her husband to create a dish named for her. Without one, Delphine fears the world won’t know that the great chef loved her. Escoffier shows Sabine his cooking techniques, but he cannot settle on a dish that does his wife justice. Instead he’s consumed with regret over his life in Paris and London, which kept him far away from Delphine, his great love, who would not leave Monte Carlo. Kelby captures the sensory pleasures of food and the complex role it plays in the lives of her characters—seductive, repulsive, comforting. Careful research enhances but does not overtake the narrative. Readers in search of an evocative and sensual read will be well satisfied. (Nov.)
Diana Abu-Jaber
“Beautifully layered and lovingly detailed, White Truffles in Winter is a tale of extraordinary people entangled in a captivating love story. Filled with lush and decadent longing, this novel will dazzle the mind as well as the senses.”
Library Journal
In this imagined life story, Kelby (Whale Season) delves into the fascinating career and personal relationships of Georges Auguste Escoffier, the French chef who revolutionized the world of culinary arts. Kelby's layers of detailed description allow the reader to experience the richness of Escoffier's world in terms of both food and love. His passion for great food is matched by the fervor of his relationships with the women in his life. The novel proceeds at a leisurely pace, shifting between Escoffier's final days and the lustrous excitement of his early career. Throughout, Escoffier mixes and mingles with the stars of politics, theater, and high society, a beloved figure whose passion, creativity, and intuitive understanding of food transform the culinary world. How does a former army cook become the most sought-after chef in Europe? The answer may lie in the words Kelby fashions for his character, "A chef without mystery is merely a cook." VERDICT Through rich description based on careful research, Kelby offers intriguing possibilities regarding the life of the great Escoffier and gives us a novel well worth reading. [See Prepub Alert 5/2/11.]—Catherine Tingelstad, Pitt Community Coll., Greenville, NC
Kirkus Reviews
From Kelby (Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill, 2008, etc.), a fictional biography of the pioneering French chef Auguste Escoffier full of luscious details about his methods, both of cooking and seduction. In the mid-1930s, after 30 years of separation, the aged and ailing Escoffier has returned to his wife Delphine, a poet. Sixty years ago he wooed her through his cooking--the sensuality of his food-centered seductions beats even the famous scene from Tom Jones--and their early marriage was joyful. But when he moved to London as chef at the Savoy, she refused to uproot the family to follow him. Lonely, he rekindled his earlier friendship with Sarah Bernhardt and also dallied with the English chef and hotelier Rosa Lewis. But his alter ego Mr. Boots courted Delphine from afar, sending her delicacies like figs. Eventually he realized that his heart truly lay with Delphine. By then their youngest son had died as a World War I soldier, a grief heightened by the fact that Escoffier had cooked a meal for Kaiser Wilhelm months before war was declared. Now Escoffier begins a memoir that captures the true stories behind his recipes and is full of sex and early-20th-century celebrity sightings. Her own health failing, Delphine hires a young woman named Sabine to cook for the extended family that gathers at their Monte Carlo home. Delphine, a local girl, has no idea how to prepare Escoffier's sophisticated fare, but not coincidentally, she's a dead ringer for the young Sarah Bernhardt. Both Delphine and Escoffier give Sabine lessons, and her evolution as a cook and as a woman offset the story of the ailing Escoffiers. Delphine desperately wants Escoffier to create a dish in her name as he has for his other famous patrons, but he resists. The complexity of their relationship almost defies even his ability to combine ingredients. Kelby's prose fits her subject, lusciously rich as the truffles and foie gras that dominate Escoffier's recipes, but sensory overload eventually sets in.

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.56(w) x 9.62(h) x 1.16(d)

Meet the Author

N. M. Kelby is the critically acclaimed author of In the Company of Angels, Whale Season, and the Florida Book Award winner A Travel Guide for Reckless Hearts, among other works. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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White Truffles in Winter 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Atthebeach More than 1 year ago
I absolutely fell in love with this book. I never wanted to stop reading and did not want it to end. The story of Auguste Escoffier, the first world-renowned chef who changed cooking forever, is a great story in itself----his theories on cooking, cooking tips (I took notes at times), recipes, dinners, grand events, his kitchens and staffs, his great hotels and restaurants, his famous customers, and his most cherished ingredients. All fascinating and luscious! Then there is the story of his life and loves: his wife, Delphine the poet, and his lover, Sarah Bernhardt, the great actress. Complex, passionate and painful, and beautiful at the same time. Then there is the story of the times: great change in Europe, the leaders of the world (who Escoffier fed), the slow but certain run-up to war, the fears of the people, and how food and fine dining played a role in it all. And there is the story of the end of life, a life very fully lived, the need to tell his own story before it's too late, and the need to end his life the way he wanted to end it. Food, love, celebrity, success, heartbreak, history, life, death, all wrapped up in passion and food in this wonderful book. Along with his amazing story, I learned some great things about cooking and I'll keep trying some of his methods. And I want to know more. What a fascinating man! I know, it's a novel, but this story really brought Escoffier to life.
TonyaTells More than 1 year ago
This book made me extremely hungry. I have never heard of Escoffier and so this book opened new doors for me. His relationship with his wife Delphine is a bit odd and a tad complicated. Maybe because he had an affair with Sarah. The character that spoke to me the most was the maid, Sabine. Although she was slow and not really wanting to work, I like how much she worked at the end and was learning about cooking. Every page was a picture anew, full of plates of food, images of things unique. I appreciate the author's details in every page. The description of the Red Dinner was beyond amazing, I felt as if I could feel each thing as he said it. Kelby is a very talented author and I wish to read more! I did give it 4 stars because, in some parts I just felt a bit lost, other than those moments, I was so engrossed in this novel, I felt bereaved when it ended. I received a copy of this novel from first reads on Goodreads in exchange for my honest opinion.
Lolly_B More than 1 year ago
Richly imagined tale of the man who revolutionized the culinary world. Haven't enjoyed a book about food so much since Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone and Julie and Julia. Readers looking for a tightly-woven plot will be disappointed. This is a different sort of book, but decidedly satisfying in context. Four stars for imagination and for making me very hungry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I chose this book for book club. I didn't love it, despite the many glowing reviews. The food descriptions are very detailed and yummy and it lends itself to a French-themed book club meeting quite well. Otherwise, just eh. If you are really into gastronomy, Sarah Bernhardt, or French history between 1880 and 1945, go for it.