Book Review | French Lessons

French Lessons

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.


Book Review | Confections of a Closet Master Baker

Confections of a Closet Master Baker: One Woman’s Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker. A memoir by Gesine Bullock-Prado


Confections of a Closet Master Baker is a truly delightful memoir spanning the life of the author, Gesine. She and her sister, Sandy, split their childhood between Germany and the United States with a German mother who sang opera and a father from Alabama who worked at the Pentagon.

Gesine graduated from law school and moved to LA with her sister who’s acting career was blossoming in Hollywood. Gesine became the executive manager of Sandy’s career, “doing lunch,” managing the piles of scripts that came across her desk, and generally spiraling downward into an angry, jaded pit of despair that is Hollywood. One bright light in Hollywood, next to Sandy, was Gesine’s husband, Ray; a dashingly handsome entertainment illustrator.

After the death of Gesine’s mother, a series of well-placed events and signs encourage her to leave the land of blindingly white teeth and fake tans and she and Ray escape the grip of Hollywood to settle in Montpelier, Vermont, where they open a Gesine’s Confectionary. Gesine’s storytelling is very frank, with glorious insight to her blunt opinions, experiences, and rich history that brought her to settle in Vermont. Each chapter is written as the progressing hours in a day in the life of a bakery owner, but beautifully woven with stories of her youth and family, and – the best part, in my opinion – recipes tucked into the end of several chapters. Each recipe has a story and a memory of its own, creating its own private vortex of emotions, scents, and mouth-wateringly delectable visuals.

“Chock-full of eccentric characters, lovingly detailed descriptions of her baking process, and wickedly funny tableaus of Hollywood habits, obsessions, and posturing, the ingredients of her story will appeal to anyone who has ever considered leaving the life they know and completely starting over.”

Gesine has now written several books, has been featured in magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, has been featured on the Food Network, and has a blog which can be seen here.

Her books include:

Confections of a Closet Master Baker

My Life from Scratch

Sugar Baby (Recipe book)

Bake It Like You Mean It (Recipe book)

Pie it Forward (Recipe book)