Subtitled ``why the French know how to eat better than any people on earth and how they have gone about it, from the Gauls to Paul Bocuse,'' Chelminski's delightful book is an anecdotal romp through the culinary countryside of contemporary French cuisine. He stops to eat at some splendid places, wildly famous restaurants as well as more modest, unsung tables. His happy appreciation of the small, local vin as well as the great bottle is heartening. His enthusiasm is catching. The writing is fun: ``Nelly Melba, the apple of the public's eye but the peach of Escoffier's heart.'' Because the book gives only a glancing look at history, it complements rather than competes with Barbara Ketcham Wheaton's scholarly Savoring the Past ( LJ 5/1/83) and Esther B. Aresty's The Exquisite Table ( LJ 5/1/80). All three works are important to culinary history. Johanna Ezell, Mont Alto Campus Lib., Pennsylvania State Univ.