An unexpected collection, intelligent and stirring to contemplation and a readying of the heart for the season. Not the usual fare, as the editors KevAn unexpected collection, intelligent and stirring to contemplation and a readying of the heart for the season. Not the usual fare, as the editors Kevin Crossley-Holland and Lawrence Sail explain in their short foreword--for so much of Christmas verse is familiar and ground well-worked through the ages. That's not to say there is not the usual imagery in this verse--shepherds and stables, light and snow. But there is the surprisingly ordinary-made-extraordinary too: birds and gardeners, rosé wine, beagles and bluebells. The images hearken cheer, miracles, and gifts. Among the loveliest chestnuts in these eighty poems are "Christmas" by Bernard O'Donoghue, "Dawn" by Richard Burns, "The Thorn" by Helen Dunmore; and the editors' own work--"The Glimmering" by Lawrence Sail, and "The Heart-in-Waiting" by Kevin Crossley-Holland. The engravings by John Lawrence are a lovely complement that stir the imagination: a winter's hare jumping over a full moon, angels that bring the Blessed Mary a tulip or watch over angels with boughs of fir and olive; an owl, a bowl of hyacinths, a glass of starry winter's cheer, the cross-hung Christ. The work is well-paced for reading several poems in one sitting some evening by the fire or furnace, yet also perfect for dipping into here and there. Still, be warned: One reading will entice you to another till you are turning the pages, brought through the Christmas season to the new year, where the yard door is left open, as John Burnside writes in "Peredelkino," for "the gift/of elsewhere."...more
I wish we still had Roy Andries De Groot with us. Such wonderful writing, storytelling, imparting of feast in every way on the page in this wonderfulI wish we still had Roy Andries De Groot with us. Such wonderful writing, storytelling, imparting of feast in every way on the page in this wonderful book. You cannot think of it as cookbook, though it is that--endorsed, beloved, and well worn in the libraries of M.K. Fisher and Julia Child. More, it is the mystery unraveled of La Grande Chartreuse, and the way of life in the village below the monastery marked by heart, simplicity, and humility in the most base daily endeavors.
I love how a dinner party and reading of labels on the Green Chartreuse liqueur that De Groot drank every evening as an after-dinner appertif, led to the journey captured in this book. One taste of Chartreuse, very cold, chilled and on ice, does make one want to know its origins. A small sip goes down powerfully, sweet but not too, with kick and warmth, smoothness. You immediately think *mountains* for there is the hint of the Alpine meadows, all that's green and fresh. Is it pine? Anise? It is difficult to describe and as intriguing to hear its history, why only two monks in any given lifetime since 1764 know the recipe. Why so secret? Why made only this one place in the world? Why almost lost when the Nazis invaded France during World War 2.
De Groot unearthed the story (originally as an assignment for *Gourmet* magazine, where he was a columnist) and fell in love with the Chartreuse valley and wrestled with whether to expose it: "Should I try to protect the isolation of the Valley by keeping its location a secret?" Thank goodness he "decided not to change or hide anything. This involves an obvious danger ... if [it] were to be invaded by tourists almost everything I write about would cease to be true."
Most delicious in the tale De Groot does unveil is the *how* of the story. How the Chartreuse Valley gets its charm and resilience (a refuge for those contesting the Romans), how the people eat and live with what the seasons serve, how it is that few tourists have wandered into this Alpine haven. Along the way, De Groot creates an experience in every line, which is amazing because he was blinded from injuries in World War 2. Sentences like this (from the very first line of the preface) sweep you into his journey, this amazing place, and another time: "It is now fifteen years since I first approached the forbidding granite wall of rock, found the jagged cleft cut by the rushing torrent of the river, negotiated the narrow road on the ledge above the ravine, swung around the hairpin bends and plunged through one rock tunnel after another, until I found myself in the sun-splashed forest, surrounded, it seemed, by an orchestra of a thousand birds singing in harmony a hundred songs. The trees parted, as if they were a stage curtain, to bring me, for the first time, into the extraordinary valley of La Grande Chartreuse."
The tale of the Auberge itself ("a farmhouse, not dolled up") is just four short chapters in Part One of the book. And yet the history and life at the inn are woven through the menus and recipes that follow, even to how the ingredients are gathered and what is served: the miniature pale mauve aubergines, truffles dug at night (under the Nazi occupation when foodstuffs were scarce), the mountain raspberries picked and whortleberries (who knew there were whortleberries outside a Seuss book?), cheeses made, custards stirred, souffles baked, soups simmered in bubbling cauldrons over open-hearth fires.
Truly, *The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth* is a great read by a man known as the father of gourmet cooking--as well as being a charming guidebook for kitchen and gathering table and creating a life that is a feast....more