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Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste
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Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  1,424 ratings  ·  284 reviews
Provence, 1970 is about a singular historic moment. In the winter of that year, more or less coincidentally, the iconic culinary figures James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, Richard Olney, Simone Beck, and Judith Jones found themselves together in the South of France. They cooked and ate, talked and argued, about the future of food in America, the meaning of taste, and ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 22nd 2013 by Clarkson Potter (first published January 1st 2013)
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Julie
On a run last week, I saw a hummingbird at rest on the bough of a blackberry bush. Such a rare treat to see this tiny thumb of shimmering green and red in repose instead of as a darting blur at the hanging basket of flowers on our front patio. I paused to watch him on the gently swaying bough. In three heartbeats, he was gone.

Provence, 1970 is about recognizing the hummingbird at rest. It is about capturing a moment in time and holding it in freeze frame, before it darts away to catch up with th
...more
Caitlin
If you read only one piece of non-fiction, one piece of food writing, this is the one to read. In Provence, 1970, Luke Barr examines a pivotal point in the American food establishment when the lure of classic French cooking had faded and the promise of American cuisine, ethnic cuisines, all kinds of cuisines became alluring.

All of these cooks and writers had established themselves as purveyors of France and French cuisine. Their works brought what are now considered fairly basic cooking techniqu
...more
MaryJo
This book is quite delightful. Barr's lucky find of his great Aunt MFK Fisher's journal gives the book its core, and he does a good job of bringing to life a moment when American tastes were changing. It is fun to hear about Julia cooking with MFK Fisher and James Beard, and their disputes with Richard Olney and Simca Beck. But it is hard to compete with the originals, who are quite fabulous letter writers and many of whom have created their own books or have books about them. I have read a fair ...more
Kathryn
Luke Barr writes and researches with a style so meaty and tasty you want to keep chewing every flavorful little bite to it's last bit. He was given the advantage of being MFK Fisher's grandnephew but pays it back with access to notes, and conversations and locations few readers can even imagine. This is not another "Famous Foodie" book but rather a study of real people facing real life with it's failing friendships, deaths, illness and disappointment of nothing being like you remember it. Yet it ...more
Mara
It was okay. Didn't keep me enthralled like I thought it might, the author definitely hero worships. If you are a big fan of M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, or James Beard, you'll enjoy it. I read this bool as a casual fan of cooking and it just didn't draw me in.
Gary Anderson
Provence, 1970 puts us around the table with M. F. K. Fisher, Julia and Paul Child, James Beard, and other notable foodies from last century. These iconic American chefs and authors were all in southern France during the winter of 1970 and found their way together to cook, talk, and gossip. In the process, according to author Luke Barr, they articulated a new way of thinking about the influence of French cooking on American tastes and culinary practices. Barr, the grandson of M. F. K. Fisher’s s ...more
Chris
Ah, to spend just a few hours in the company of M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, Simone Beck, and Richard Olney in Provence, cooking and talking about food. And Luke Barr takes us there.

It’s not all bread and roses for these four stalwarts of the cooking world, as each were at their own personal turning point in their lives. Child and Beck are at odds, coming to a point in their professional relationship that they must sever the ties, while neither one wants to make the first move. Bear
...more
Biblio Files
Anybody out there remember the suburbs in the 1960s? The food, I mean? We had roasts and burgers and tuna casseroles and franks & beans. If we wanted exotic food, we went to the neighborhood Italian restaurant for lasagna or pizza, or to the Chinese restaurant for chop suey. There were no Thai restaurants or Indian restaurants or Greek restaurants. In California we had Mexican restaurants, but they were non-existent outside the Southwest. Hawaiian food was available – in Hawaii.

If you were i
...more
Joyce
An intriguing look at the history American food culture--the turning point when the big name chefs seemed to move away from the exclusive influence of French cuisine to embrace a broader outlook, which, of course, led to chefs like Alice Waters. The author is the great nephew of M. F. K. Fisher, and she's the focus--it's just as well as he relies heavily on her notebooks to tell of the convergence of the great chefs in Provence in the fall/winter of 1970. Interesting biographical insights--lots ...more
Amy
I wanted to stick with this. Nice descriptions of traveling in a very nostalgic/old school way (even by 1970 standards). Writers turning sixty, comfortable with their success and now wondering, what next? That's an interesting point in life, I'm guessing.

But my God this is a slow read. A bunch of people with extremely narrow interests and seemingly unlimited time on their hands to complain about and judge each other. I can get that at the office . . . .
Toni
Just great! Although MFK Fisher is the central character, I most enjoyed the parts about Julia and Paul Child. The Childs seem so warm and gracious, Julia as down to earth in real life as she seemed on TV. I really didn't know much about Beard and Olney, so the book filled in some gaps. But I confess that I have not read MFK Fisher and I've been a long-time Julia fan. (Loved My Life in France.) I also love reading almost anything about Provence, which I've visited three times (so far). Of course ...more
Donna
If I had to use one word to describe this book, it would be glorious.

Provence 1970 is written by Luke Barr, whose great-aunt was the brilliant food writer M.F.K. Fisher. In December 1970, Fisher and her sister traveled to Provence to spend the holidays in France. Also there were Julia and Paul Child, who had a house in Provence; the great chef and writer James Beard; Simone Beck, a Frenchwoman who co-wrote Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking books; Judith Jones, who was Child's ed
...more
Michelle
I admit I was predisposed to like this, as I've become enthralled with Julia Child and books relating to her time in France and working on Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Simca Beck, etc. And I found myself swept into this world of food and France and big personalities--Child and Beck and Beard and that "martinet" Richard Olney. But of course, the focus here is on M.F.K. Fisher, as her great-nephew is the author. It was a fast and fun read that I'd highly recommend, especially if you enjoy ...more
Mary Jane
I loved this book. Eating, drinking wine, conversation in Provence with M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, et. al. reminded me how much I love a long, leisurely meal with good friends. Only a few short decades ago, we still enjoyed each other in the same room and not on a screen, only. If only we took the time to meet in person a little more often. This is an endearing book, and there is nothing better than a book that transforms you into the lives of the characters. This is a story of the ...more
Roben
Luke Barr is a fine story teller. He is a genius, pulling back and weaving a beautiful turning point in the history of American food. I could not put it down and to that end I'll toast the read with a cocktail cited therein known as, "The Placassier". "Into the blender went a basket of raspberries, fresh mint, lemon juice, and vodka. This liquid was poured judiciously into the bottoms of glasses, and then topped with Laurent-Perrier champagne". Cheers to delicious food and drink and good convers ...more
Anne
From the title I had expected something more on how Americans fell in love with French cooking. Instead it is a more intimate account of the relationships between the food writers name in the title. At times it is too intimate, stepping away from what the reader can surmise was in letters and diaries and into the minds of the subjects in ways that made it difficult to tell if there was much supporting evidence or only the author's interpretation and imaginings.
Emilie Greenhalgh
I picked up this book at the airport with a bit of reticence. It was,in fact, the only book I could find in the Albuquerque airport that wasn't about green chile or in the top 10 on the NY Times best seller list.

In fact, it was a little gem of a book to read. Written by MFK Fisher's grand nephew, Luke Barr gathers his material from journals, letters, cookbooks, reviews, and his family's oral history. He weaves a lovely tapestry of a moment in Provence where Julia Child, James Beard, Richard Olne
...more
Gail Goetschius
Anyone who enjoys reading about food preparation and eating would enjoy this book. The many famous chefs in this book cook for each other and consume meals in restaurants honoring the local cooking of Provence. Simultaneously they are reevaluating cooking in America which was divided between complex French cuisine prepared by a few and canned, frozen, and prepared food served by the masses. When these chefs returned to America they began the cooking movement that encourages the simple preparatio ...more
Amy
This book should have been a long essay rather than a full-length book. There were some very well written parts that immersed the reader in Provence but I have a few points that just drove me crazy.

First, the writing was repetitive and just needed a better last-edit (or at least someone with fresh eyes, reading it from start to finish). He refers to the various introductions by one person to various other characters (Olney being introduced to the various other big American food names) as if we
...more
Cat
I devoured this book, beautifully written about fascinating people and places. I loved the way that Barr highlighted the life transitions that come in your 60s, as your vitality remains but your plans for the future, no longer constrained by family or professional expectations, seem wide open and thus both inspiring and uncertain. His central figures are tremendously appealing--the witty and sensual M.F.K. Fisher, the jovial and hedonistic James Beard, and the vivacious and accessible Julia Chil ...more
Dan
I received a copy of this book through "The Reading Room" and "Crown Publishing Group".
This book to me was a good read. It took me by surprise, (pleasantly of course), that the book was well written and well organized.
It tells the story of how modern French cuisine was created by M.F.K. Fisher, James Beard, Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Judith Jones when they were together in the South of France in the early to mid seventies.
No recipes in this "cookbook", but it didn't matter to me because ther
...more
Sara
A fine introduction to the subject for readers. As a pure biography this book is shallow--but approached as culinary historic commentary- it has some insight. I especially like learning more about Richard Olney. The depth of MFK Fisher's life played a cursory role in the telling of the story of winter 1970 Provence. Rather than an illuminating biographical piece, this book gives a spotty, yet entertaining overview of American personalities influencing French cooking in the states 1960's-70's.

In
...more
Tawney
I received an ARC compliments of Clarkson Potter/Crown through the Goodreads First Reads program.

Although I don't qualify as a 'foodie' I thought this book would be interesting. James Beard was a familiar name in my teens due to my mother's enthusiasm for his personality. Later 'The French Chef' became education as fun. (I once made cream puffs with Julia's fine directions.) So I am one of those Americans these cooks were trying to enlighten.

The book is interesting indeed and well written. Luke
...more
Sarah
I have found the best way to endure a miserable cold snap is to take to my bed to vicariously travel to far away places, explore the history, and enjoy fabulous meals. I have just returned from spending the Holidays in France with M.F.K. Fisher, Paul and Julia Child, James Beard and other foodie dignitaries. I was quite content even when I found myself craving tangerines, roast chicken and vermouth.

The subtitle this book is "and the reinvention of American taste." Written by M.F.K.'s grandnephe
...more
The Library Lady
About once a year I have the pleasure of reading a piece of adult non-fiction that is so well written it reads like a novel, and this is apparently this year's book. That it includes one of my idols, Julia Child, only adds to the pleasure.

However, the drama Barr promises in the engaging foreword at this period when a number of great chefs/cooks/foodies intersected ends up being very, very minimal. His prose prepares you for cat fights straight out of the Linda Evans/Joan Collins period of "Dyna
...more
Sorien Schmidt
This book again reminded me of how much i believe in and like living an intellectual life of exploration, reading, writing and enriching conversation and food. And how out of fashion that is in the screen engrossed world. But of course ten year before the events of this book took place someone won a small prize for the book the anti-intellectualizing of america. So it has always been here. I am no true intellectual but this is very good and takes me back. By the way MFK Fisher is much more than ...more
Katie
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

What a lovely gift. MFK Fisher, Julia Child, Judith Jones, Richard Olney, and James Beard plotted the next phases of their lives together in Provence in 1970 -- and you and I get to be there.

Fisher's great-nephew, Luke Barr, read her journals and letters of that winter and discovered that she had chronicled in detail an important turning point in her life. But it wasn't just her. This meeting of culinary giants changed all of them. The
...more
Melissa
Unfortunately, I was not thrilled with this book. It sounded like something I'd love - famous chefs/cooks gathering together for a holiday period in Provence. But it turned out to be way to focused on how much of a snob of couple of them were. There were too many parts of the story that was high on gossip and low on cooking. I wanted it to be a book about chefs discussing and cooking amazing food.

Now, when it did come around to discussing food and cooking, it was awesome! I kept getting hungry
...more
Denise Morse
I recently read a huge biography of Julia Child (Dearie- which has to be the most definitive description of her life that ever existed) so I already am well versed in her life. This did provide a different point of view of her contemporaries and those around her at the same time. This was a time when American home cuisine was on the upswing and the French cuisine no longer had the same mystique as it used to prior to Child. I enjoyed learning more about James Beard and I will search out an entir ...more
Tim C
Sometimes I wander through bookstores and pick up books that just seem interesting from the cover; I read a few paragraphs and then if it hits me that day I buy it. This is one of those books. Reading this book, I felt like I was watching one of those small independent films in which nothing appears to happen yet there is so much going on underneath (you know...Helen Mirren, Dame Judith Dench). But this time peopled with the star chefs/foodies of the time. I'm not sure that the month of events c ...more
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Luke Barr is an editor at Travel + Leisure magazine. A grandnephew of M.F.K. Fisher, he grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Switzerland. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, architect Yumi Moriwaki, and their two daughters.
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“Child was a new kind of celebrity: She was a woman in her fifties, and she played herself on television. She was real. She made mistakes. Of course she was a masterful cook, but when things went wrong, she embraced the opportunity to use her mistakes to teach—here’s what you should do if this happens.” 0 likes
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