The Gourmand’s Way

Six Americans in Paris Create Culinary History

The Gourmands’ Way: Six Americans in Paris and the Birth of a New Gastronomy
By Justin Spring
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017

If you don’t know how a gourmand differs from a gourmet, this is a good book to read just for that bit of information, but it has much more to offer to anyone interested in food culture and history. Justin Spring’s biography chronicles six eclectic individuals, some cooks and some food and wine writers, whose lives and careers intersected in mid-twentieth-century France and in turn influenced how Americans came to cook and eat.

The six—A. J. Liebling, Alice B. Toklas, M. F. K. Fisher, Julia Child, Alexis Lichine, and Richard Olney—came to Paris and food from different backgrounds. Liebling was a war correspondent, reporter, and humorist; Toklas was Gertrude Stein’s life partner who reinvented herself at age 75 as a cookbook author; Fisher was a storyteller; Child was a cookbook author and television food celebrity; Lichine was a French wine importer and merchant; and Olney was a food and wine writer.

Spring describes the lives of these six epicures living and working along the Left Bank after World War II and during the 1950s, elaborating on the way in which their work served to popularize French cuisine in America. The book is well-researched and engagingly written, though not always complimentary. (For instance, M. F. K. Fisher doesn’t fare so well as the others.) It is a fascinating account of these figures, their lives, and the way in which they combined to create a significant moment in culinary history.

Meet Justin Spring at Omnivore Books on Food
Tuesday December 5, 6:30–7:30pm
3885a Cesar Chavez St, San Francisco

Edible East Bay’s book editor Kristina Sepetys is eager to share her ideas and book recommendations with our readers.