Provence 1970 by Luke Barr

Provence 1970 is a book about good food and the experience of cooking and eating well. But it also a book about living well. Each of the people in the book, MFK Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard and Richard Olney, went to France and discovered good food or rather they discovered how good food could be if it is prepared with care and attention.

Cooking that way and teaching others to cook that way became the work of their lives. And they kept going back to France or in Olney’s case, living there.

All of them had homes or people to visit in Provence, which to the lot of them was the best place in the world to live. While they did a lot of talking about food, what appealed to them so much about France and Provence in particular, was the way of life, the relaxed pace, the simple, uncluttered lifestyle and the fact that people make time to enjoy the good things in life.

What they began to realise in 1970 was that a love of good food, the ability and desire to enjoy life and to live well…these are things that you can have anywhere, not just in France. And French cuisine, magnificent though it is, is not the only great cuisine and when you do cook French food you don’t have to do it only one way. You can improvise, try something different, make it your own. The whole point of cooking good food or living a good life is to have fun and enjoy it and not worry so much about doing things perfectly or in just the right way…

This book is a record of a series of meetings and meals that all of these people shared  in the December of 1970 when by some coincidence and a little bit of planning they all happened to be in Provence at the same time. It is a record of their conversations, their thoughts and the experiences of those few days which led them all in one way or the other to question the established way of doing things.

The book is very engaging and it quickly draws you into its world. Luke Barr has done a wonderful job of recreating the time and the place and he writes about each of these people with such warmth and sensitivity that you end up caring very much about them by the end of the book. It is a book that will stay with me for a long time.


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