Vie De France Hardcover – Jun 6 2002
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"To see and taste and smell all this wonderful food was so heartening to me, I felt I had arrived in heaven," says James Haller in Vie de France. He's referring to the marketplace in the Loire Valley town of Savennieres, but his response encapsulates his "food encounter" during a month-long vacation he and friends took to the small community, where they rented a charming 17th-century house. The diarylike book details the trip and, in daily menus, the food Haller cooked--delightful country dishes like Sausage and Red Wine Ragout, Sorrel and Spinach Salad, and Green Plum Custard Tart. Though not presented in recipe form, the meals nonetheless receive sufficient description to whet appetites and encourage cooking.
An ex-chef/restaurateur, Haller, in his early 60s, was looking for the next thing to do, and the house and his diary-keeping provided a necessary break that eventually led to a full-time writing commitment, of which this book is a result. His journey from fearfulness about the outcome of a spur-of-the-moment plan to relaxation and revelation in the French countryside is gratifying. Readers follow the process, joining Haller and company as they discover town butchers where meat is cut to order, supermarkets with multiple cheese aisles, local chateaux, and more while experiencing some of the predictable crosscultural contretemps. Though narratively thin, and lacking the exploration of self and others necessary to paint a penetrating picture, the book manages nonetheless to convey the culinary life and spirit of flower-saturated Savennieres. --Arthur Boehm
Top Customer Reviews
Haller and a group of friends rented a lovely home in Savonnieres a small town in the Loire Valley for a month. The beauty of the area, availability of fine fresh food and warmth of good companions inspired Haller to share the time he spent in the region.
In "Vie De France", Haller describes how he and his friends enjoyed their days, looking for antiques, exploring the marketplace and soaking up the atmosphere.
Haller is an award winning chef and author of several cookbooks. He loves to eat, cook and shop for food. He relishes food and this radiates throughout the book. In each chapter, he shares mouthwatering morsels of the food he feasted on. He describes dishes he made using fresh, local ingredients and dishes he enjoyed at casual cafes and fancy restaurants.
Haller walks you through the marketplace where he selects from four aisles of cheeses. You will pick from the freshest vegetables displayed like jewels. The butcher cuts your meat to order as you wait. In the patisserie the variety of breads, candies and pastries delight the eye. It's hard to decide between a "crusty round pain de compagnes" or a hearty wheat bread.
Back in the kitchen, Haller prepares tasty dishes using natural, healthy ingredients like creamy French butter, olive oil, herbes de Provence and garlic. The delicious recipes he makes are interspersed throughout the book. Recipes included range from the simple - french toast baguette with an apricot sauce to the more complex - turkey cutlets stuffed with a mushroom pilaf in a white wine and sorrel cream sauce.Read more ›
The house combined the best of history with much of modern day convenience. The company was companionable both those staying in the house and the locals whose fresh foods at the markets provided James an invigorating regeneration and though he planned not to cook one meal the motivated chef was soon doing all the cooking.
Though the recipes are what readers might expect from the author-chef, the key to this uplifting biographical month is how important friendship is to the human condition. France furbishes the atmosphere that rejuvenated a tired James. VIE DE FRANCE: SHARING FOOD, FRIENDSHIP, AND A KITCHEN IN THE LOIRE VALLEY is an inspirational toast to the stimulation of camaraderie that is a human need in order to live precious life to the fullest.
From the completely uninspired writing style to the astonishing errors in French spelling and terminology to the unsavory and repetitive recipes, it's just one big, sophomoric exercise.
Readers, I dare you to count how many times "Chef" Haller writes "I sautéed [sometimes with the accent mark, and sometimes without] some green beans in olive oil and a bit of garlic." How about that recipe for "French toast" that he repeats verbatim twice? Does a real chef actually use "cheap red wine that we bought just for cooking"?
I don't know whether to blame him or his editor, or both, for the remarkable number of spelling errors (framboisse, fois gras, marguez) or the factual mistakes ("We drank a bottle of Badouit, a local mineral water"; "cassoulet actually comes from the Provence region"), but someone should take the rap.
Take all this phony "knowledge" gleaned by an absolute amateur on a one-time, one-month trip to France and pair it with a penchant for walking readers through recipes as though they were in Montessori school ("First I chopped last night's turkey into bite-sized pieces and put those pieces into a large cast iron pot I found on the second shelf of the pantry" - OK, I fabricated that, but that's what it's like reading this guy), and you have one big snore of a book.
Most recent customer reviews
This delightful book brings you to a place many of us want to be- in a lovely house nestled in a charming village, amongst good friends and family, sharing wonderful food and wine. Read morePublished on Aug. 11 2002 by BKK Blonde
I just finished reading it and I was charmed. The book, a day by day description of a monthlong visit to the Loire Valley, is funny, interesting, touching and hopeful. Read morePublished on June 25 2002 by Mara Bannard