The Barnes & Noble Review
Peter Mayle eats his way across France in this charming blend of travelogue and food lover's journal. Fans of Mayle's previous travel books know that the author's favorite stomping ground is Provence, where the leisurely pace allows room for lingering over meals -- one of Mayle's favorite activities. In French Lessons, Mayle broadens his horizons and sets out on a gastronomic voyage to every region of France, ready to eat and drink his way into blissful oblivion. Along the way, Mayle unearths rare local delicacies, irresistible recipes, and eccentric characters, while ingesting plenty of red wine, piquant cheese, and escargots.
An experienced travel writer who has spent many years living in France, Mayle knows the secret to drawing locals out of their shell: Tell them you're a foreigner seeking "guidance and advice." You will inevitably find your wine glass replenished, your plate piled high with unusual delights, and your ear filled with the intricacies of making foie gras, omelettes, cheese, or wine. Armed with this secret, Mayle travels all over France to attend the country's most famous food festivals: the Foire aux Escargots in Martigny, a celebration of the snail; Les Glorieuses in Bresse, home of the chicken elite; and the messe des truffes in Richerenches, a mass held in honor of the fabulous black truffle.
Mayle's subtle comic flair, and his passion for discovering off-the-beaten-path gems, make French Lessons an engaging and witty travelogue, as well as a great guide for foodies seeking to sample the culinary delights of France. (Julie Carr)
Having shucked an advertising career for the Mediterranean sun, Mayle began living the dream lifeand his readers loved it. Over the years, his charming books celebrating the pleasures of French cuisine have introduced enthusiasts to an array of pâtés, stews and wines. In his latest volume, Mayle details his visits to a series of regional French festivals. There's a stop at an escargot festival in Martigny-les-Bains; a search for the perfect chicken at a fair in Bourg-en-Bresse; an initiation into a frog-tasting society in Vittel; a day at a beachside restaurant in St. Tropez, where the beautiful people eat lunch. Mayle is always a pleasant enough companion: the charming outsider who makes up for his lack of expertise and savoir faire with good-natured humility and curiosity. Unfortunately, the book is formulaic and thin. Mayle's fans may encounter the usual laughs and fun, but others may grow bored with the repetitive structure: The author travels to a festival or restaurant, eats and drinks well, encounters some French peculiarities and returns home with a satisfied smile.
In this latest book, part travelogue, part guide to cuisine, Mayle leaves his beloved Provence behind and sets out to experience gastronomic pleasures available at food festivals and celebrations throughout France. The always curious and friendly Mayle befriends colorful locals at such events as a frog's-leg festival in Vitel, where "thigh tasting" is regarded as a reverent act. The best advice when eating escargots, he finds, is that one should eat them "through the nose, not through the eyes." By far the most fascinating and bizarre event is a Catholic mass in the village of Richerenches whose main purpose is giving thanks for the adored, rare and costly black truffle. Mayle's wry, colorful and playful prose effectively conveys just how seriously the French take their food. Simon Jones, who also gave a wonderful reading of Mayle's A Dog's Life, is a highly entertaining performer with a voice and energy reminiscent of John Cleese. Paired with Mayle's witty and unpretentious style, his reading makes listening to this book delicious and satisfying. Simultaneous release with the Knopf hardcover. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
“Delectable . . . as satisfying as a meal in a Michelin-rated three-star restaurant.” —USA Today
“Mayle’s descriptions are as mouth watering as the food he samples.” —Rocky Mountain News
“So evocative you can almost feel the bib tied around his chin and sip the last drop of Bordeaux at the bottom of his glass.” —The Washington Post
“Charming. . . . [Peter Mayle] whets the reader’s appetite for all things French. Even frog legs. Or especially frog legs.” —Nashville City Paper
“Armchair diners will doubtless find the fourth volume…as tasty as ever.” —New York Magazine
“Savory, sensual, positively transporting stories about his encounters with Gallic gustatory delights and about his growing appreciation of the central place food occupies in French life…. His descriptions of the meals they serve allow us to practically taste the frog legs and truffles right along with him.” —Booklist
“Whether you’re going to France or just to eat, Mayle is worth reading.” —San Jose Mercury News
“Foodies and Francophiles will discover a like-minded devotee. And all but the strictest vegetarian will be made hungry by this book. Mayle’s form is every bit as good as ever.” —The Associated Press