An irresistible insight into the heart of French cuisine
For romantics and foodies alike, here is a literary feast for your holiday reading pleasure. You’ll be whisked away by N. M. Kelby’s passionate tale of France’s greatest chef, a man who is so much more than a talented cook.
‘White Truffles in Winter’ is poetically, yet conversationally, written, making it such a delight to read. Every time I picked it up I wanted to keep going to the end, however that almost never happened! I wound up having to take myself to the beach and finish it while lounging in the summer heat.
Kelby crafted this story around the bones of the life of French culinary legend, Auguste Escoffier. The current day is 1935 and the world is on the brink of war once more.
Escoffier, aged 89, has returned to his family’s home in the Cote d’Azur and is writing his memoires. His wife, the famous poet Delphine Daffis Escoffier, has one dying wish: for her husband to create one dish in her honour, as he did for so many others in his lifetime.
Through narrative recounting the past and describing the present, along with the odd chapter from his memoires, the life of this famous chef is fleshed out. Slowly and reassuringly, the details mesh together so that each character’s identity is eventually justified. There is no villain, nor a hero, just human nature in a time of wealth and of war.
They say sex sells. Well, so does food.
Tantalisingly seductive, delicacies such as truffle, foie gras and caviar are tossed in along with adultery and romance. Just as Escoffier charms his lovers with his culinary talent and Champagne, preferably Moët, Kelby charms readers with a sensory treat. She thrills with candlelit suppers, midnight picnics, and grand banquets at the Savoy, craftily interjected by recollections of heated conversations with famous clients or heartfelt exchanges between loved ones.
Mercifully, the novel remains true to itself and concludes not with a Hollywood happy ending, but something much more matter of fact. I appreciated that the omniscient reader is left content, understanding each character’s final action, and that no magic miracle occurred to shatter the sense of truth in the tale.
My only complaint is in regards to the title; Escoffier radiates so much warmth that winter hardly seems like an apt season to encapsulate the essence of his life.
(Or perhaps that’s just my sunburn?)
Nevertheless, ‘White Truffles in Winter’ is one hearty read.
Stay tuned for the chance to win a copy of ‘White Truffles in Winter’… details coming soon.References:
1. W.W. Norton & Company, publishers of ‘White truffles in Winter’. Credits images:
1. White truffles risotto, by Blue Moon in her eyes on Flickr.
2. White truffles in Winter book cover.
3. Champagne, caviar and crackers, by Naotakem on Flickr.