This book is so many things, a travelogue, a memoir, but most of all a wonderful celebration French gastronomy.
I loved Carole Bumpus’ first book in this series. A celebration of French food, traditions and family, as well as travel in the north-east of France. This new book, like the first is packed with incredible traditional recipes, however, the travels are in the north-west of France. Carole makes her way through various regions, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Normandy, Brittany, Loire Valley, and finally on to Auvergne.
Carole and her good friend, French Californian Josiane Selvage, begin their road-trip by heading towards the Somme. Famous for its World War I history, this once ravaged area is today a peaceful and beautiful area. Full of lovely nature reserves, it also has a sometimes rugged, sometimes calm but always spectacular coastline. Its past is kept alive by the many memorial graveyards where so many brave soldiers of different nationalities lie.
However, their culinary adventure first takes them along the coastline through the Nord-Pas-de-Calais. They meet up with Carole’s long-time friend Veronique and her mother, in Dunkirk. Here they enjoy their first taste of the incredible cuisine pauvre or peasant food of France. And, as always they learn from their hosts first-hand, discovering the authentic history of the family and regions they visit.
Part memoir – total celebration of French food
Travelling west through Normandy, they follow the coast, and enjoy sampling the local produce grown and made by local artisans, including one memorable dish, pré-salé d’agneau. This dish has its unique flavour because the lambs (agneau) graze next to the bay on the salt marshes which gives their meat its distinctive flavour. In the city of Rouen they saw the Old Market Square where Jeanne d’Arc was burned at the stake. And, they visit Josiane’s friend Louisette an Algerian refugee who treats them to amazing dishes of Algerian cuisine. Readers will be thrilled to know that Carole shares the Harira (Moroccan Chicken Soup) recipe, at the end of the book.
Then they travel through beautiful Brittany. The local seafood and mouth-watering crêpes being just a couple of the delights they sample on their picturesque journey along the Atlantic Coast. The author’s descriptive writing, both with the food and the landscapes makes for wonderful reading. Each page brings to life the amazing places she visits.
The adventure is laced with stories, told by friends, old and new. And, as the women progress on their journey, readers discover many of the longstanding French traditions which have been passed down through generation to generation. You also get a realisation of the full extent of devastation that two World Wars have had on France and its people.
A tale of history and of gastronomy
Continuing their journey into the Pays-de-la-Loire, they arrive in the Loire Valley, a region steeped in history. Here kings lived and fought for land, beautiful chateaux were built for pleasure and for showing off. Through this region the mighty River Loire winds, providing in the past a vital transportation route for produce, before it finally finishes its long journey from its source in the Massif Central at the Atlantic Ocean.
Here are the hunting grounds of kings. Wild boar and venison abound and truffles are grown in the troglodyte caves of the region. Carole’s recipes from this region include Escargots in Garlic Butter and Salade au Chèvre Chaud (Warm Goat Cheese Salad) – a taste of France you can enjoy at home.
The travellers find themselves passing through ever-changing countryside. The landscape becomes more mountainous until finally they arrive in the Auvergne department in the Massif Central. Here, like everywhere in France, local produce is celebrated yearly. The Fête du Cochon (pig) draws the locals together to celebrate. As in other regions, the two women visit friends and embrace whole-heartedly the spirit of their hosts. The amazing tales they hear, allowing memories to live on forever, are a beautiful aspect of this book. Warm, engaging, taking you on the journey with them.
I cannot praise this book enough. Carole Bumpus weaves wonderful stories into her adventures. But, at the same time, she gives her readers fly-on-the-wall glimpses of ordinary family life, and the opportunity to savour with her the incredible cuisine of France.
Whether you love France, enjoy discovering new things, want to try some of the traditional recipes at the end of this book, or just want a thoroughly enjoyable read, I highly recommend this book!
Available on Amazon and good bookstores everywhere.