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

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3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  2,246 Ratings  ·  396 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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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
Oct 13, 2013 Caitlin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
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
Mara
Oct 12, 2013 Mara rated it it was ok
Shelves: real-life
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.
Amy
Sep 07, 2014 Amy rated it it was ok
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
MaryJo
Jan 01, 2014 MaryJo rated it liked it
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
Nov 03, 2013 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
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
Gary Anderson
Aug 01, 2013 Gary Anderson rated it it was amazing
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
Amy
Jan 20, 2014 Amy rated it it was ok
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 . . . .
Chris
Jun 06, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it
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
Jul 28, 2013 Biblio Files rated it really liked it
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
Tuck
Dec 10, 2013 Tuck rated it really liked it
Shelves: wine-and-food, europa
neat bio/foodie fest/history of food movement in usa and taking its cues from france. luke barr is m.f.'s grand nephew and he both got to dig through all her letters and papers and tracked down some of the players in france today. usa is still working on this idea of local, fresh food being better and more sustainable for eating, environment, and economy than factory food. usa bread still sucks, and fast food is ubiquitous. now i gotta go check my beets.
Antonia
May 07, 2014 Antonia rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
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
Veronica
Jan 19, 2016 Veronica rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a bit of trivia, really (no, it's not a "singular historic moment"): a group of well-off Americans, all interested in food, gather in Provence in autumn 1970, cook, dine, and have endless conversations about food and wine. They just happen to include Julia Child and her husband Paul, M.F.K. Fisher, James Beard, and Richard Olney. But I enjoyed it in a cosy sort of way, eavesdropping on their gossip and occasional snobbery. Luke Barr, MFK's great-nephew, used letters and especially his gr ...more
Judy
Aug 11, 2015 Judy rated it did not like it
Blurb says "Provence, 1970 is about a singular historic moment." Not so. That 4 food pioneers got together for a few meals in December 1970 is too insignificant to warrant writing a book about it.

"Provence 1970" has 2 major problems. First, to stretch the thin material into 286 pages, a lot of unnecessary biographical data is included about these 4, especially Fisher and Child. Second, many pages are devoted to 2 women, Lord & Bedford, who live in Provence and are friends of Fisher, but they
...more
Donna
May 30, 2013 Donna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 02, 2013 Michelle rated it really liked it
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
Aug 03, 2013 Mary Jane rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 17, 2013 Roben rated it it was amazing
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
Eleanor
Dec 26, 2013 Eleanor rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written book, to begin with, and its subject matter is equally lush: food, France, and the way some of the most important people of the American food scene in the twentieth century all came together in one place, at one time. The descriptions of feasts and of personal relationships and dynamics are equally well-observed, almost novelistic. It's completely delightful, especially if you're into food, but even, frankly, if you just like lovely, lucid writing. Perfect Christmas ...more
Anne
Jan 06, 2014 Anne rated it it was ok
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.
Barbara
Mar 05, 2015 Barbara rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
I read this book for book club. This book is outside of my genre and also I am not a very talented cook. I do like to eat, especially international cuisine, so I found the cultural shift in American appetite to be of interest to me.

M.F.K Fisher was a very likable character.

I may be the only person who read this book who did not know who Julia Child was prior to reading. Or actually any of the chefs. I was disappointed when I saw her actual French cooking TV show and she was not how I imagined.
...more
Emilie Greenhalgh
Dec 30, 2014 Emilie Greenhalgh rated it really liked it
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
Jan Boyd
Sep 04, 2016 Jan Boyd rated it really liked it
Groups of writers and artists who knew each other and became famous individually and collectively - the Algonquin Round Table and the Bloomsbury group, for example - fascinate me, so, given my interest in food and chefs, I was thrilled to find this book about a point in history when MFK Fisher, Julia Child, and James Beard found themselves together in Provence. It was the moment when they grew tired of French snobbery in matters of food and, as the subtitle says, reinvented American taste. Gossi ...more
Cat
Dec 28, 2013 Cat rated it really liked it
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
Linda
Jul 08, 2016 Linda rated it really liked it
(author is MFK’s great nephew). A great read about a time and a group I remember well — also includes Richard Olney and Judith Jones. More menus and discussion of preparation and obscure culinary points than one might want to know, but mostly a beautifully written (and documented) story of an auspicious moment in the development of contemporary American attitudes, taste and cooking habits. Great sense of place, time and personality. So many memories of cooking with Monte (Vegetarian Epicure) and ...more
Meryl Huxham
Apr 04, 2015 Meryl Huxham rated it really liked it
So enjoyed the reminders of how much Julia Child was a part of our lives in the 1970's. I found myself constantly looking up information on all the other writers and cooks that spent time at La Pitchoune (Julia and Paul's house in Provence). Then, of course, I spent hours looking through images of La Pitchoune and the surrounding countryside. This is always a sign of a well chosen book to read.
I would recommend it to people who really enjoy lots of talk of food procurement, preparation and the
...more
Dan
Feb 19, 2014 Dan rated it really liked it
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
Feb 02, 2014 Sara rated it really liked it
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.

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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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