French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew A Memoir by Peter Mayle
Peter Mayle is one of my guilty pleasures. I love food. I love France. What does he write about? French food. In France, food is a culture. Lunches last all afternoon. Five courses is not unheard of – with a different wine accompanying each. Cheese and wine dot the landscape of each table. I read the majority of this book in one afternoon, sun hat perched on my head, feet up on the coffee table, and wishing for an ice bucket and a bottle of champagne.
Peter Mayle is an ex-patriot of Great Britain and he and his wife live in Provence, France with their two dogs. In this book, he travels from one end of the country to the other, visiting festivals and events solely dedicated to quintessentially French cuisine. A weekend in Vittel where he is indoctrinated into the Brotherhood of Thigh Tasters at the frog leg festival. A Sunday Mass, auction, and lunch (of course) where thanks is given for the aromatic, mysterious, and breathtakingly expensive black truffle. A weekend devoted to escargots (snails) and the wine and garlic in which they are so delicately prepared. A marathon event in Burgundy where contestants are encouraged to dress in the most outlandish and impractical costumes, while stopping along the route to sample some of the country’s finest wines.
The characters which speckle the pages are as complex and unique as the dishes. Regis, with a direct line from his vocal chords to his stomach, begins humming every time the thought of food enters his head; his descriptions of food are incomprehensible as he moans and kisses his fingers, remembering the particular combination of spices or recounting his favorite wines. Mayle’s dry cleaner in Provence who took it upon herself as a personal challenge to remove a variety of soft cheese ground into Mayle’s trousers – free of charge.
Every page is filled with Mayle’s dry, British wit and succulent descriptions of rare and exotic food. I am almost tempted to start at the beginning and read this book again.