Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Another Fine French Book Giveaway!


In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love, as Alfred Lord Tennyson said. But in winter in Provence, those thoughts definitely turn to truffles. And it’s possible that no man, old or young, has thought more about truffles than Auguste Escoffier.

Escoffier is, of course, the famed French chef (1846–1935) credited with pioneering modern French cuisine and the French dining experience, especially through the meals he prepared at his legendary restaurants at The Savoy (London) and The Ritz (London and Paris). He also created the brigade system used in most French kitchens today. Escoffier was a man of striking contradictions—kind yet imperious, food-obsessed yet rarely hungry, professionally successful but financially unlucky. His married the acclaimed, reserved, and fiercely independent poet and writer Delphine Daffis, whom he won in a billiards game from Delphine’s cash-strapped father, or so the story goes.

And now the haunting story of Auguste, Delphine, and their marriage is imagined in a new 352-page novel called White Truffles in Winter (W.W. Norton & Company, 2011), by American author N.M. Kelby. White Truffles transports us into Escoffier’s world, opening our eyes to his revolutionary contributions to French cuisine as well as his convictions about the power and emotional resonance of a perfectly crafted dish.

The book spans the 1880s to the 1930s and opens with World War II on the horizon. After spending most of their marriage apart, Escoffier and Delphine are once again living together, scraping by in their villa in Monte Carlo, surrounded by an extensive brood of visiting family members. Escoffier spends his days struggling to finish his latest book, while Delphine is quickly declining. She is mostly confined to a wheelchair, dependent on morphine, and obsessed with one thought—to make sure her husband creates a dish in her honor before she dies. Escoffier, it seems, has made dishes in honor of everyone from Queen Victoria to Sarah Bernhardt, but never one for his wife.

Delphine enlists the aid of the villa’s new cook—a young, irritable girl named Sabine—to help in her quest.

Escoffier attempts a memoir of his life, told through the wonderful dishes he has prepared, in order to stave off the growing pile of bills. He teaches Sabine how to cook for them, and she learns that the name “Escoffier” --if wielded with a liberal seasoning of chicanery—can still fill the kitchen with extravagant gifts of foods, even during wartime. Sabine does her best to push Escoffier into making a dish for Delphine, but his mind wanders backward in time with reminiscences of the many exquisite meals he has made along the way. As Escoffier notes, “When you reach a certain age, all you see are ghosts.”

For Escoffier, even the ghosts are extraordinary: Estes, the American chef and former slave, who showed him how to prepare fried chicken; Sarah Bernhardt, for whom he made special birthday meals of scrambled eggs and champagne; and Kaiser Wilhelm, who asked Escoffier to prepare a special dinner onboard his ship and made him privy to deadly state secrets.

All the while, the dish he cannot seem to create for Delphine looms over his head. As the brilliant chef laments, “it is an art that combines the telling of impossible truths and the chemistry of memory that only cuisine can provide. He worries that “some dishes fall short of the profound love that a chef feels and that is insulting.” How is he to distill their long, passionate, exasperating, and bewitched love into a single work that can mimic the complex flavors of their marriage?

In order to explore these themes and bring to life the world of Escoffier, author N. M. Kelby plunged deeply into research about Escoffier, as well as into Escoffier’s own cookbooks, letters and memoir. But, as Kelby discovered, many of the works contradict one another. She found that “the list of facts, and alleged facts, go on and on but what is left unsaid is often the most interesting part of any life.” Did Escoffier have an affair with Sarah Bernhardt as rumored? What was the truth of his marriage with Delphine? We will never know. Kelby believes the more important truth about Escoffier is what he can tell us about ourselves. “We all know that I did not write about the real man,” Kelby says. “The elegant savage found in these pages is who we all are when we address the plate. The magician, the priest, the dreamer, the artist—it is our most hungry self.”

From what she calls “the bones of fact,” the author--who lives in Minneapolis and has published three previous books--has spun an intriguing and romantic story of the brilliant man who made cooking a respectable career. As the Escoffier of this novel wisely tells us, “Food is a thing of enchantment and to believe in enchantment, and to weave its spell, is a radical and necessary act. And so. Silently. Cook.”

But before you do….

The publisher has generously offered me two free copies of this recently published book to give away here. To enter, click “comments” just below this post and leave one. If your comment is about French food…or about food and love…so much the better! Make sure to also leave your email address in the body of your comment or we won’t be able to reach you if you win. Meanwhile if you want to order the book, you can do that on Amazon US here or Amazon UK hereBon Chance and Bon Appetit!

37 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, this looks formidable! The cover photo alone is exquisite. But the question, "How is he to distill their long, passionate, exasperating, and bewitched love into a single work that can mimic the complex flavors of their marriage?" is one every chef, every home cook sees when attempting to match a vision to a plate of food, to translate the ephemera of a thought into a visible representation of love. Whether I win a copy of this beautiful book or not, I will certainly read it. It is winter in Montana, far from Aix, my true love, so what better than to curl up in front of the fireplace with a long read about food and love. Merci!

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  2. So sorry, The Solitary Cook can be reached at cakewmn@gmail.com.

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  3. my heart is always in the south of france...it is like having a child that you do not get to see
    ak
    San Francisco CA

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  4. I, too, am enthralled with truffles! So, we have booked a Provence apartment for next November primarily to go truffle hunting. Would love to have this book.
    Geraldine Ventura
    GerryBonj@aol.com

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  5. I'd love to have this book as a lover of food and France,

    Meanwhile may I make a suggestion for an old , but sad book to read/
    Written by a Bostonian (I Am)
    the late POet, writer, Gustave Sobin, who lived and died in his beloved Provence.
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/0393321797/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=9844372567&ref=pd_sl_8iwjoexr7t_b

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  6. .. I like Escoffier, love to cook and love French Food! I enjoy their love of creating a social event around the simple act of partaking a meal, with friends or family. When we lived in Paris, I shopped and cooked as a Parisien.. twice at day at the market and always fresh ingredients! I am a devoted fan of Julia and Jacques! When we treturn to to France, every three years, our favorite pastime is the markets and cooking fablous meals, accompanyed by local wines! Vivre la France.... Judith Dunn, Tallahassee, Fl.

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  7. It's my birthday, so, maybe I'll luck out and win this book. It's got the word,"truffles," in the title - what's not to love?

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  8. I never had French food until I moved to Paris where my eyes were opened and I discovered the richness of the traditions here having to do with food, drink and eating. Just the cheese and wine alone are enough to keep you going for years. Linda @ lpennin104@aol.com

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  9. Sounds like a Fantastic book! Speaking of food....I was working on my menu for February and I' planning on incorporating at least one afrenvh recipe! I think I'm going to try to make bœuf bourgogne one day! I'll probably make my favorite toast to eat with it...toasted bread with butter and a little herbes des Provence sprinkled in top! Yummmm! My email is wendyamarie (at) gmail (dot) com

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  10. Would love a copy of this book as I'm a total French foodie; I lust after croissants, drool over coq au vin and go all squishy for a mousse au chocolat. Thanks jacqui.brown@orange.fr

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  11. I second cigalechanta's suggestion for The Fly-Truffler by Sobin--a most unusual book which I recently read--as well as Black Diamond by Martin Walker, a wonderful mystery centered around truffle discovery and intrigue set in the Perigord. After just finishing those 2, I am delighted to find a new tome on "white diamonds" as well. Fascinating--can't wait to read it!

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  12. Imaginary love with this book which combines the 2 most dangerous and most ahh-mazing passions : love and food<3 My simplest but greatest French 'dish' is Creme Brulee - yep, I know not a big deal but you get adddicted to it:)
    -just to mention from this book Sabine could be my favourite 'side-character' as I'm a Sabine, too just in Hungarian.
    Fairiy-blessings!

    porcukorborso(at)gmail(dot)com

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  13. caitriona.manoury@wanadoo.frJanuary 18, 2012 at 2:49 PM

    'life is just a bowl of cherries'

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  14. You are so lucky to live the dream of most chefs. The book looks incredible and would definately use it as reference material for our students.

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  15. What a wonderful, enticing story this sounds like. Especially in the depth of winter here in Minnesota, all I want to do is crawl into bed with a cup of tea, a piece of chocolate, a good book, and an escape to a French life.

    email: amandapaa@hotmail.com

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  16. Love of French food and the French culture captovated me . Reading A Year in Provence I used the book in my travel to Provence. I later became a student at the French Culinary Institute and now a chef. Cooking teacher. I live my life through food. Please pick me for the book. It would be treasured.
    stepspior@yahoo.com
    Thank You
    Stephen Piorkowski

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  17. Frech Food and Cooking is my life. I read A Year In Proence then traveled to Provence to follow chapters in the book . It inspired me to become a student at The French Culinary Institute. Now a chef and teaching cooking classes. I live food every day in my life. Please choose me for the book.
    stepspior@yahoo.com
    Stephen Piorkowski

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  18. I've been cooking professionaly for over thirty years, so of course that means French cooking, for most of it anyways, it's what you were taught, and what you cooked everywhere back in the day. Sure would love to win a book, it's as if Escoffier was my mentors mentor.

    Henry Prontnicki
    chefhenry@hotmail.com

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  19. My grandfather studied with Escoiffer in Paris at the end of the 1800's and has his cookbooks (well, I now have them)and a handwritten ledger book my grandfather wrote while in that school. He followed him to Monte Carlo and later to Heyernes (sp). I am a chef/Bistro owner and working on the translation of my grandfather cookbook. Would love to read this book . Cookanddraw@yahoo.com

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  20. Rarely do we learn of the private lives of individuals who contribute so publicly to the gustatory happiness of so many. His culinary presence persists and inspires to this day. Salut!

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  21. Looks like a MUST read to me. And I have just learned that some white truffles have been discovered near Aups.....move over Alba...the French are on the way! mj@maryjames.net

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  22. What an enticing description of the book!

    After spending three weeks traveling and cooking in Nyons and Avignon, France to me will always mean food and sensuality. karen@windyridge.co

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  23. Wow! This book looks great. Thanks for letting me know about it!

    larkspurpurple (at) gmail.com

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  24. Julie,

    Thanks for your response to my question. I would love to be lucky enough to receive one of the books. It sounds wonderful.

    I love food history and French food in particular. I have been lucky enough to assist several fine French chefs. I am a retired line cook due to injury so now I just cook for myself and friends.

    Thank you.

    Laura Gates
    miss.jane.gray@gmail.com

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  25. Wow! Sounds lovely...Franch food, mais oui!

    lpmccallum (at) sbcglobal. net
    Lorri

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  26. I was born in Marseille. My fondest memories are of our family's special dinners with aunts, uncles & cousins. Though we live far apart, it is the foods of Provance that bind us & keep us close in memories.
    Suzanne
    scsuber@yahoo.com

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  27. dorette@cestsibon.net (c'est moi) is the owner of the c'est si bon! cooking school. my culinary eye-teeth were cut on the bones of such ancienne cuisine and the brigade system of the French kitchen. and as the author of the award winning novel, "city of ladies" (the tale of lost bread in 16th century Gascony and Provence) -- may i say that "white truffles in winter" sounds like an amazing imagined work about one of the culinary world's unsung heroes; escoffier! such a sublime man! the magic of provence equally inspires adults and teens who i've tromped with around the truffle market in carpentras and then eaten five courses dejeuner that began with mousse de canard avec truffe in a quaint bistro in st. remy, watching the black market of truffles being sold in the back room. salut! et bon chance to N.M. Kelby!

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  28. This book would certainly feed my French hunger!
    debrapaper@gmail.com

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  29. I am actually learning about him In class right now! I would love to be able to read about his life and inspiration!

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  30. Wow, today is certainly my lucky day! I have stumbled upon your beautiful synopsis of what appears to be a mouthwatering historical novel, as well as your website/blog (now bookmarked!). As a chef, food, France, and French food are some of my deepest passions, so a story that brings to life the greatest chef in history...I can't imagine a more perfect read! I have several stacks of books next to my bed -- some cookbooks, some novels, some travel stories,and some I'm rereading -- but if can get my hands on White Truffles in Winter, it's sure to be at the top of the pile, and completely read through overnight. Thanks, Julie, for bringing this novel to attention, and for such an enticing narrative of it. My email is simdelish(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you!

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  31. I would love to read this book,
    I would like to taste truffles,
    but the book will have to do.

    cigalechanta@hotmail.com

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  32. I am an aspiring pastry chef attending Le Cordon Bleu in St Louis. I have always had an appreciation for everything French. And now am learning the many techniques I will need to make some of the most lovely desserts and pastries. I am also a romantic at heart and the coupling of cooking and romance stikes a chord in my heart! I would so love a copy of this book. My email is c.womble1@my.stlouis.chefs.edu

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  33. I had no idea how much the art of cooking is deeply ingrained into the French psyche until I moved from London to France. The art of cooking doesn’t just apply to the fine dining restaurants of France but to all walks of French life. My neighour is 84 and is teaching me to cook the French way – this means hardly any measuring of ingredients and sticking to seasonal products – not always easy for an ex supermarket junky like me. She recently told me that onions have restorative properties and implied they were a form of Viagra which of course I took with a pinch of salt! However, when I looked onions up on the internet, I discovered that in ancient times they were considered an aphrodisiac and in the old days in France newlyweds were served a bowl of hearty French onion soup the morning after the wedding. This novel will I am sure increase my understanding of French cuisine/culture and I may be able to teach my neighbour a thing or two when I’ve read it!

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  34. I am vicariously living in France through reading books set in France (Australia is currently home). If it is a foodie book all the better. Oooh make it me me ME!

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  35. I spend most Septembers on the Cote d'Azur and visit Escoffier's museum in Villeneuve Loubet. It is so inspiring, cannot wait to read the book. Thanks for sharing and the free copy. I will be sure to spread the good word. -- Chow Ciao!

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  36. Michael Ploppert • I would love the opportunity to receive this book. I donate my time to " wayward " youth in my area who are given the opportunity to change their direction in life. They are part of a program that has culinary at the forefront. They are taught everything regarding FOH / BOH.I was lucky enough to learn about Escoffier while apprenticing in a french kitchen. Teaching the youth in this program about the" beginning of Culinary " could be a huge help in their development....... Michael....chefding13@ymail.com

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  37. Michael Ploppert • I would love the opportunity to receive this book. I donate my time to " wayward " youth in my area who are given the opportunity to change their direction in life. They are part of a program that has culinary at the forefront. They are taught everything regarding FOH / BOH.I was lucky enough to learn about Escoffier while apprenticing in a french kitchen. Teaching the youth in this program about the" beginning of Culinary " could be a huge help in their development.......Michael
    ....chefding13@ymail.com

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