Friday, September 7, 2012

Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas, John Baxter

From the preface: Most years, the first queries from the United States or Australia arrive just after Thanksgiving. "We're thinking," say friends,"of a romantic Christmas trip to Paris. Which would be the best hotel? What restaurants offer a really interesting Christmas dinner? And is there a chance of spending the day with a typical French family? Please don't go to a lot of trouble. Just give us half dozen names or so. We'll do the rest."

Baxter goes on to explain that there are no hotels and restaurants open on Christmas; they're all closed. Immoveable Feast is the story of how he, an Australian, has to cook a Christmas dinner for his wife's French family. Like The Most Beautiful Walk in the World, this is an amusing book about Paris, and in this case, fine cuisine. Baxter is also the author of A Pound of Paper, but these two were much better.

Now, you're probably wondering about the title. Baxter explains it in the preface pages 4-5: "Ernest Hemingway called Paris 'a moveable feast.' He meant to compare it to those events of the Christian calendar- Lent, Pentecost- that change their date depending on when Easter falls. There is, the term implies, no 'right' time to discover Paris. Its pleasure can be relished at any moment in one's life. But the phrase is subject to another interpretation. At certain times of the year, the spirit of Paris moves elsewhere. Its soul migrates, and this most beautiful of cities briefly falls empty. One such moment is August, when Parisians reaffirm their cultural roots by returning to the regions of their ancestors. Another is Christmas. But where do the French go at Christmas? And what takes place there? That, among other things, is what this book is about."

My favorite part about this one was definitely the mouthwatering cuisine and food that is required for the dinner. It made me really hungry. The oysters, the pork, the apples, even the cheese (and I don't really like cheese), sounded wonderful. (I was going to say heavenly or divinely, but that would be a bit of an exaggeration.) Though Baxter is an amusing writer, I don't think he's exactly a model citizen, and he was a bit nasty to his first wife. On page 68, he says, "Divorce ran through Joyce's family like one of those genetic conditions that passes down the female line. Her grandmother, mother, and sister, were all divorced, so, when she and I separated, it seemed no more than a case of succumbing to the family disease." Yes, I'm sure he wasn't to blame at all. But that's beside the point. This one was a good read, amusing and mouthwatering.

Read Immoveable Feast:
  • if you are interested in Paris
  • if you like John Baxter
  • if you like descriptions of good food
270 pages.
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

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