SEARCHING for FAMILY and TRADITIONS at the FRENCH TABLE BOOK TWO
Reviewed By: Susan Keefe
Susan Keefe reviews and promotes poetry, fiction and non-fiction, and is also author of the Toby's Tails series of children's books.
I have eagerly awaited this, the second part of Carole Bumpus’ culinary tour searching for family and traditions at the French table, and I was not disappointed.
Carole and her good French Californian friend and translator Josiane Selvage begin this adventure by heading to the Somme, a now beautiful area which was the site of some of the most horrendous battles in WWI and WWII, and indeed even now, dotted throughout the countryside and coastal towns are the remains of the wartime bunkers, along with the memorials to the thousands who died there.
Then they carry on through the Nord-Pas-de-Calais to Dunkirk to meet with an old friend Veronique, and her mother, and thus their culinary journey begins as they discover the delights of cuisine pauvre or peasant food of France.
For those of us who love France and also who have a deep respect and interest in the tales of the older generations, this book is a real gem. Carole and Josiane are invited into many households on their travels, and they provide wonderful snapshots of the families, their history and that of the regions. The book is overflowing with descriptions of the wonderful regional produce and tales of times gone by.
Following the coast, the pair travel west, driving through Normandy and catching up with old friends. Near Mont St. Michel they stop off at the Manoir and are lucky enough to obtain an interesting interview with M. Barreaux, its owner and head chef. It is there that they are able to savor the delicacy of pré-salé d’agneau. These lambs (agneau) graze by the bay, consuming the salt-encrusted marsh grasses, and this is what gives their meat its unique flavor. Just one of the many exceptional local products they are lucky enough to sample on this amazing journey as they travel on through picturesque Brittany, with its breath-taking coastal views, wonderful architecture, and of course the delicious cuisine, before heading down to the Pays de la Loire.
The Pays de la Loire and the Loire Valley hold a special place in my heart because it has been my home for the last 16 years. Sampling its wonders is a daily pleasure, and I have enjoyed visiting the tuffeau cave homes, and the mushroom caves, in the area, taking home their produce to cook. However, I was fascinated to read about the truffle farms, with their truffle dogs (and pig,) and discover some of the uses of this world-renowned delicacy. The majestic chateaux and beautiful landscape of woods and vineyards truly comes alive through the author’s wonderfully descriptive writing, and it is no wonder that this incredible area steeped in history is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
However France has a diverse landscape and soon the pair find themselves noticing that it has changed, first to rolling hills, and then more mountainous, as they arrive in the Auvergne region, the Massif Central. Here, as in all over France local produce is celebrated, from the scallops and oysters of the coast to the Auvergne’s Fête du Cochon where each year a pig is slaughtered and is the center of celebrations, as this is an important time of the year and a traditional part of village life.
This book captures the French people, their love of family and friends, their generosity, and their passion for sharing good quality fresh local food. The author has generously ended the book with a collection of some of the wonderful recipes for us to enjoy making in our kitchens, whilst embracing the flavors and traditions of French family life.
Throughout it, however, the devastating effect the World Wars have reeked on families, and communities is heart-breaking. Yet despite this these people have survived and carried on with fortitude. The tragedies have given strength to this nation, emboldened them with incredible comradeship, and inspired the bravery of the resistance.
In Summary: I would highly recommend this excellent book, and I am sure it will be enjoyed by anyone loving, France, cooking, traditions, and history.
Author’s Website: https://carolebumpus.com/
Available to pre-order from Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Searching-Family-Traditions-Nord-Pas-Calais/dp/1631528963/ref=sr_1_3?crid=2T4JU2PWFDCMX&dchild=1&keywords=carole+bumpus&qid=1594902024&sprefix=carole+bumpus%2Caps%2C367&sr=8-3