On the surface, Provence, 1970 would look to be the perfect read for the Accidental Locavore. It’s about one of my favorite places, the South of France. It’s about Julia Child and James Beard and MFK Fisher and Richard Olney and Simone Beck, and, and, and. It’s about how they all convened in this place at that time and ate great food, drank great wine, had great conversations and saw great sights. It’s been excerpted in every food magazine and made it on to several foodie gift lists. So, naturally, I eagerly accepted a reviewer’s copy and sadly, it’s been downhill ever since.
How a book about all these fascinating early food celebrities, hanging out in such fabulous locations manages to be so damn dull is a pretty amazing feat! While reading Provence, 1970, I find myself looking for any and all diversions (like writing this blog). Email, Words With Friends, Freecell, Facebook, Netflix, you name it, if it’s on my iPad, ADD sets in after about five pages.
The reason I haven’t given up on it (yet), is that I keep hoping that by the time they all get together in Provence, things will pick up. However, after reading it for a month or more, I’m only a third of the way through. Even when something interesting or familiar happens (visiting the Foundation Maeght, the Matisse Chapel), it’s reduced to a couple of perfunctory paragraphs. Incredibly, the chauffeur who takes MFK and James Beard to the museums gets more of a description than the entire Foundation Maeght (if you don’t know it, it’s an amazing museum in St.-Paul de Vence, in a spectacular setting).
While the book has made me curious to look at Richard Olney’s French Menu Cookbook, I think Provence, 1970 will rest unfinished on my iPad. Hopefully, I can find the “good bits” about Julia and Paul Childs in their house in Plascassier and hopefully they will indeed be “good bits”.
If you’ve gotten further in the book than I have, I’d love to know what you think.