A Bite-Sized History of France: Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment

A Bite-Sized History of France: Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment

by Stéphane Hénaut, Jeni Mitchell


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A "delicious" (Dorie Greenspan), "genial" (Kirkus Reviews), "very cool book about the intersections of food and history" (Michael Pollan)—as featured in the New York Times

"The complex political, historical, religious and social factors that shaped some of [France's] . . . most iconic dishes and culinary products are explored in a way that will make you rethink every sprinkling of fleur de sel."
—The New York Times Book Review

Acclaimed upon its hardcover publication as a "culinary treat for Francophiles" (Publishers Weekly), A Bite-Sized History of France is a thoroughly original book that explores the facts and legends of the most popular French foods and wines. Traversing the cuisines of France's most famous cities as well as its underexplored regions, the book is enriched by the "authors' friendly accessibility that makes these stories so memorable" (The New York Times Book Review). This innovative social history also explores the impact of war and imperialism, the age-old tension between tradition and innovation, and the enduring use of food to prop up social and political identities.

The origins of the most legendary French foods and wines—from Roquefort and cognac to croissants and Calvados, from absinthe and oysters to Camembert and champagne—also reveal the social and political trends that propelled France's rise upon the world stage. As told by a Franco-American couple (Stéphane is a cheesemonger, Jeni is an academic) this is an "impressive book that intertwines stories of gastronomy, culture, war, and revolution. . . . It's a roller coaster ride, and when you're done you'll wish you could come back for more" (The Christian Science Monitor).

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620975473
Publisher: New Press, The
Publication date: 05/28/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 141,411
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Stéphane Hénaut's wide-ranging career in food includes working in the Harrods fromagerie, cooking for the Lord Mayor of London's banquets, and selling obscure vegetables in a French fruiterie. He lives in Berlin.

Jeni Mitchell is a teaching fellow in the Department of War Studies, King's College London. She lives in Berlin.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Our Ancestors, the Gauls 5

2 The Virgin of the Kidney 10

3 Barbarians at the Plate 14

4 Ode to Gluttony 18

5 Left Behind: The Goats of Poitou 22

6 The Sweetest King 26

7 They Came from the Sea 31

8 Feudal Fare 37

9 Of Monks and Men 43

10 Fighting for Plums 49

11 The Wine That Got Away 55

12 The Vegetarian Heresy 61

13 A Papal Red 68

14 The White Gold of Guérande 73

15 Legacy of a Black Prince 78

16 The Vinegar of the Four Thieves 84

17 The Cheese of Emperors and Mad Kings 90

18 La Dame de Beauté and the Mushroom Mystery 94

19 Fruits of the Renaissance 99

20 The Mother Sauces 105

21 Conquest and Chocolate 110

22 The Culinary Contributions of Madame Serpent 116

23 A Chicken in Every Pot 122

24 The Chestnut Insurgency 128

25 The Bitter Roots of Sugar 134

26 The Liquor of the Gods 139

27 The Crescent Controversy 145

28 War and Peas 148

29 The Devil's Wine 153

30 An Enlightened Approach to Food 159

31 Revolution in the Cafés 163

32 Pain d'Égalité 169

33 The Potato Propagandist 174

34 The Pyramid Provocation 180

35 The Man Who Abolished the Seasons 186

36 The Fifth Crêpe 189

37 The King of Cheeses 193

38 A Revolutionary Banquet 197

39 The End of the Oyster Express 203

40 Revelation in a Bottle 210

41 The Curse of the Green Fairy 215

42 Siege Gastronomy 221

43 The Peanut Patrimony 228

44 Gastronomads on the Sun Road 233

45 A Friend in Difficult Hours 238

46 A Mutiny and a Laughing Cow 244

47 "Bread, Peace, and Liberty": The Socialist Baguette 249

48 Couscous: The Assimilation (or Not) of Empire 254

49 The Forgotten Vegetables 262

50 Canon Kir Joins the Resistance 268

51 France and the United States: From Liberation to Exasperation 274

52 Conclusion 282

Acknowledgments 287

Bibliography 291

Notes 293

Index 321

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