The Gourmands' Way: Book summary and reviews of The Gourmands' Way by Justin Spring

The Gourmands' Way

Six Americans in Paris and the Birth of a New Gastronomy

by Justin Spring

The Gourmands' Way by Justin Spring
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2017
    448 pages
    Genre: Biographies/Memoirs

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Book Summary

A biography of six writers on food and wine whose lives and careers intersected in mid-twentieth-century France.

During les trente glorieuses, a thirty-year boom period in France between the end of World War II and the 1974 oil crisis, Paris was not only the world's most delicious, stylish, and exciting tourist destination; it was also the world capital of gastronomic genius and innovation. The Gourmands' Way explores the lives and writings of six Americans who chronicled the food and wine of "the glorious thirty," paying particular attention to their individual struggles as writers, to their life circumstances, and, ultimately, to their particular genius at sharing awareness of French food with mainstream American readers. In doing so, this group biography also tells the story of an era when America adored all things French.

The group is comprised of the war correspondent A. J. Liebling; Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein's life partner, who reinvented herself at seventy as a cookbook author; M.F.K. Fisher, a sensualist and fabulist storyteller; Julia Child, a television celebrity and cookbook author; Alexis Lichine, an ambitious wine merchant; and Richard Olney, a reclusive artist who reluctantly evolved into a brilliant writer on French food and wine.

Together, these writer-adventurers initiated an American cultural dialogue on food that has continued to this day. Justin Spring's The Gourmands' Way is the first book ever to look at them as a group and to specifically chronicle their Paris experiences.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Spring's book is a wonderful culinary history." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Stunning...A literary meal both luscious and lively, and essential to understanding our vacillating love affair with the French." - Kirkus

"A solid read for both foodies and literary history buffs." - Library Journal

"In The Gourmands' Way, Justin Spring brilliantly recounts the French odyssey of six remarkable Americans during the extraordinarily creative 30-year period from the end of World War II to the mid-1970s. So different and yet so similar, these heroes of mine - writers, gourmands and adventurers who were passionately curious about French cuisine, wines and lifestyle - immersed themselves in the culinary culture of Paris." - Jacques Pépin

"I recommend this book to anyone interested in gastronomy, but also in the idea of self-transcendence (no less), which is what I think the six protagonists were seeking and, in some cases, achieved." - Blake Bailey, author of Cheever: A Life

"Any American who has eaten at a French restaurant or had a glass of French wine with dinner, anyone who has used a recipe by Julia Child, peeked at Alice B. Toklas's cookbook, or loved M. F. K. Fisher, will be delighted by this book. It explores a lovely and undiscovered land with fascinating secrets, the world of the Francophile foodies. Perfectly paced, full of information yet intensely readable, The Gourmands' Way defines a tradition of distinctively American hospitality, and that is a life-enhancing gift." - Phyllis Rose, author of Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages

"Justin Spring explores six Americans that were fascinated, and fueled, by French cuisine. The Gourmands' Way delves deep into their gastronomic lives, which had a profound effect on how we now cook and eat in America today. This book brims with revelations and delicious drama; a fascinating story that any food lover will completely devour." - David Lebovitz, author of L'Appart and My Paris Kitchen

"In The Gourmands' Way, Justin Spring makes superb use of unpublished material and brilliantly portrays the experience of these post-World War II gastronomic pioneers. The desacralization of M. F. K. Fisher is priceless by itself. The real hero, Richard Olney, seems the least likely at the outset. This is a hard book to put down." - Paul Freedman, author of Ten Restaurants That Changed America

"A brilliant, informative and entertaining study of the cultural dialogue between American and French gastronomes in the years following World War II. The charm of Justin Spring's book comes from the light touch with which he brings to life the literary and political background of the postwar years in France, his impeccable knowledge of all things culinary, and his talent for ferreting out the most telling and amusing anecdotes." - Ankha Muhlstein, author of Balzac's Omelette

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Justin Spring is a writer specializing in twentieth-century American art and culture, and the author of many monographs, catalogs, museum publications, and books, including Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade; Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art; and Paul Cadmus: The Male Nude.

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