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Review of Menu from the Midi, by Colin Duncan Taylor

Book cover of Menu from the Midi by Colin Duncan Taylor

If you’ve ever travelled in France you may well have wondered why it is that a traditional dish such as cassoulet is different in towns that are just a few miles apart. Or perhaps you’ve seen giant olives on a market stall and wondered why they’re so much bigger than the rest. Or even, like me, thought, I wonder how someone found out that it’s ok to eat the blue-green mouldy bits in Roquefort cheese?

Well Colin Duncan Taylor knows the answers. He’s done some serious research into the gastronomy of southern France. He’s talked to the people who produce the foods and wines. To those who cook, both professional and home cooks, the traditional dishes of the Midi area – Occitanie. He’s tasted many dishes over his twenty years of living in the area. And he shares this wealth of fascinating information in Menu from the Midi.

Summary

Menu from the Midi explores French gastronomy from the farmer’s field to the dining room table. Concentrating on the South of France, the book is structured as a menu. It’s carefully compiled to give the reader a balanced diet of gastronomy, history, legend and local colour. Uniquely, it adds into this mix a celebration of the dedicated and passionate people who produce some of the finest raw ingredients and foodstuffs you are ever likely to taste.

Appreciating good food and wine needs the right ambiance, the right company and plenty of time. Sit back, relax and savour the oldest sparkling wine in the world. Le Rolls-Royce of olives. Pink garlic soup. Meats of the black Gascon pig. The legendary cassoulet. Cheese from the caves of Roquefort… And learn how the Midi’s ornate pigeon towers ensured a constant supply of roast pigeon.

No wonder the father of food journalism and gastronomic guides, Grimod de La Reynière, had this to say 200 years ago: In good towns of the Midi, a great dinner is an affair of state. One speaks of it three months beforehand and digesting it lasts six weeks.’

Review

I thought I knew a lot about French food – until I read this book and then I realised there’s much more to learn. Luckily, Colin Duncan Taylor is happy to impart his considerable knowledge on the topic. Menu from the Midi is an engaging read about the history and production of some of France’s most famous foodstuffs.

I had no idea that it was Catherine de Medici who introduced sorbets to France when she married the future King Henri II in 1533. That’s just one of the scintillating little factoids that the author uncovers in his quest to find out about mushroom hunters, pink garlic, Black Gascon pigs and more. The book is full of quotes and anecdotes. I loved an Englishman’s view of garlic published in 1594: “Garlic makes a man wink, drink and stink.” Winking at that time meaning to inflame lust!

Each section contains a recipe, researched, studied and tested. The book is a menu of the most famous and traditional foods, wines and recipes of the Midi.

Frequently fascinated and surprised by what he finds, the author delves deep into the history and production of the traditional foods of the south of France. And takes the reader on the tasty journey with him. His serious research includes meeting cooks, producers and fellow diners.

If you love history, are a Francophile, or curious about the origins of French food, Colin Duncan Taylor’s Menu from the Midi will take you on a delicious and intriguing journey. It’s a great read.

Available from Amazon and book stores everywhere. (Just ask them to order in if they don’t have the book in stock and support your local book shop).

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