- Title: Provence, 1970 MFK Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste
- Author: Luke Barr
- Genre: Biography; Memoir
- Published: October 2013 – Clarkson Potter
- Source: Publisher
Synopsis: 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 the limits of snobbery. Without quite realizing it, they were shaping today’s tastes and culture, the way we eat now. The conversations among this group were chronicled by M.F.K. Fisher in journals and letters—some of which were later discovered by Luke Barr, her great-nephew. In Provence, 1970, he captures this seminal season, set against a stunning backdrop in cinematic scope—complete with gossip, drama, and contemporary relevance. (publisher)
My take: Luke Barr’s affection for his great-aunt Mary Frances Kennedy (MFK) Fisher is apparent in Provence, 1970. His narrative and anecdotes (culled from MF’s diaries and letters) of the last months of 1970 as well as the years before and after make for an interesting reading experience. The principal players have strong opinions where food and eating are concerned. I found myself in the camp of Beard, Fisher and Child. Cooking should not be intimidating or come with a purist attitude when presenting recipes for the masses. Rather, stress the importance of quality ingredients. Simplicity can be its own form of beauty. At least, that’s how I took the message.
Adding to the story were cooking purists who seemed to enjoy looking down their collective nose at American chefs. Their catty remarks about Fisher, Beard and Child seemed to be steeped in jealousy and self-loathing. Who knew? Not this foodie neophyte, that’s for sure.
At any rate, the late 1960s and the 1970s were times of great cultural change in the US and the world. The same could be said of the food world. Child and Beard were at the helm in showing regular people how to cook good food. And MFK Fisher wrote about eating good food. I enjoyed Provence, 1970 and think fans of cooking or any of the chefs listed, culinary students, and fans of books about eating will want to read it.