Ranging far from his adopted Provence, Mayle now travels to every corner of the country, armed with knife, fork, and corkscrew. He takes us to tiny, out-of-the-way restaurants, starred Michelin wonders, local village markets, annual festivals, and blessed vineyards.
We visit the Foire aux Escargots at Martigny-les-Bains-a whole weekend devoted to the lowly but revered snail. We observe the Marathon du Médoc, where runners passing through the great vineyards of Bordeaux refresh themselves en route with tastings of red wine (including Château Lafite- Rothschild!). There is a memorable bouillabaisse in a beachside restaurant on the Côte d'Azur. And we go on a search for the perfect chicken that takes us to a fair in Bourg-en-Bresse.
There is a Catholic mass in the village of Ri-cherenches, a sacred event at which thanks are given for the aromatic, mysterious, and breathtakingly expensive black truffle. We learn which is the most pungent cheese in France (it's in Normandy), witness a debate on the secret of the perfect omelette, and pick up a few luscious recipes along the way. There is even an appreciation and celebration of an essential tool for any serious food-lover in France-the Michelin Guide.
Here we have all the glory and pleasure of the French table in the most satisfying book yet from the toujours delightfully entertaining Peter Mayle.
Having shucked an advertising career for the Mediterranean sun, Mayle began living the dream lifeand his readers loved it. Over the years, his charming books celebrating the pleasures of French cuisine have introduced enthusiasts to an array of pâtés, stews and wines. In his latest volume, Mayle details his visits to a series of regional French festivals. There's a stop at an escargot festival in Martigny-les-Bains; a search for the perfect chicken at a fair in Bourg-en-Bresse; an initiation into a frog-tasting society in Vittel; a day at a beachside restaurant in St. Tropez, where the beautiful people eat lunch. Mayle is always a pleasant enough companion: the charming outsider who makes up for his lack of expertise and savoir faire with good-natured humility and curiosity. Unfortunately, the book is formulaic and thin. Mayle's fans may encounter the usual laughs and fun, but others may grow bored with the repetitive structure: The author travels to a festival or restaurant, eats and drinks well, encounters some French peculiarities and returns home with a satisfied smile.