Published Aug 2004
231 pages; 233×156 mm; paperback; drawings by Peter Campbell
The Life and Food of an Auvergne Village
|The remarkable fusion between life, the produce of the countryside and the food on the table that is Auvergne continues as it has done for generations. In a dozen chapters devoted the constituents of a Rabelaisian meal — from soups, to egg dishes and pancakes, cheese dishes, fish, pork, game, poultry and other meat dishes, vegetables, desserts and breads, preserves and confectionery; more cheese, and wine — Peter Graham laces recipes together with extended introductions which reflect on the life of the countryside, his travels around it, and his long residence in it. The food of the Auvergne exemplifies that regionality that is so special to the complex whole that makes up French cookery. It is an amalgam of influences exerted by local materials, the landscape, social development and a long history. Peter Graham unpicks these delicately, with a style and knowledge born out of reading, wide sampling and much socialising. In consequence, the reader not only has a marvellous series of recipes that will warm many a winter supper — or harvest-home for that matter — but also will come away considerably the wiser about Auvergnat society history and culture. What is remarkable about this book is both the quality of the dishes described — who could resist the Aligot, a magical combination of mashed potato, cheese and cream, or the detailed instructions for a perfect coq au vin? — but the happy introduction we are given to a score of local kitchens, be they in restaurants or hotels such as Le Vieux Pont at Belcastel or the Beauséjour at Calvinet, or on farms that have preserved a way of life fast vanishing through the rest of France.
This is the first paperback edition of Mourjou. Its author, Peter Graham, has lived in France for much of his adult life. He has written books on the cinema and on psychoanalysis as well as compiling travel guides and undertaking journalism for the Sunday Times, The Times and the Guardian. His previous books on cookery include a translation of Jacques Médecin’s Cuisine Niçoise and his own Classic Cheese Cookery.
Review from the Independant by Chris Hurst
”In France, the dinner is the thought of the morning and sometimes the business of the day,” wrote the Victorian cleric Charles David Badham. Nowhere does this admirable philosophy still apply more than in the Auvergne, where expatriate Scot Peter Graham has been resident for more than 20 years. In this evocative and enjoyable account, he reveals how food remains the major preoccupation of the region. This cuisine is far from haute. Until recent years, the Auvergne was dirt poor, and that is reflected in its dishes. Aigo boulido is a soup mainly made of water, garlic and eggs. The “startlingly tasty” gelée de fleurs de pissenlit demands “400 newly opened dandelion flowers”. As with all peasant food, the staple dishes of the Auvergne are intended for a robust appetite. Aligot (”rather indigestible when eaten in large quantities”) combines mash, cream, butter, garlic and cheese. Graham admits the omelette au boudin (black pudding) may sound “far-fetched, not to say repulsive... but the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. Though you might have trouble getting hold of some ingredients - such as the “120ml fresh duck blood” used in salamis de canard - this passionately written book is packed with stimulation, both intellectual and culinary.
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