Cooking for Claudine

Cooking for Claudine

Cooking for ClaudineCOOKING FOR CLAUDINE
How I Cooked My Way To the Heart of a Formidable French Family
By John Baxter | Allen and Unwin | Out now

Aussie born journalist and filmmaker John Baxter was no spring chicken when he married French filmmaker Marie Dominique Montel. The couple had dated when younger and never lost touch – and after their whirlwind reconnection, Baxter impulsively uprooted his life to move to Paris, marry Montel and start a family with her. However, without a word of French under his belt, he knew he’d have to deliver big-time to win over Montel’s wary rellos. The test? Cooking sacred Christmas dinner – for 18 people – in the family’s ancestral country home, under the watchful eye of Claudine, his mother-in-law.
Baxter takes a year to plan the meal, which some might call overkill. Not me. Somehow, it’s justified here as a journey of sorts, and beautifully told, as the author scours the country for the best recipes and ingredients for his feast. In between, he weaves special anecdotes – his first taste of vinagrette, made by his future wife, 15 years before they’d actually tie the knot. His search for the oysters fed to French presidents, a best-kept secret found at the end of a remote, muddy road. Unearthing a dusty case of forgotten fine wine in a suburban supermarket. Finding the best bread – and the best cooking apples, hidden in a basket under a stall in a Fouras market hall. We eavedrop in as he begs the butcher to go against French tradition by supplying a pig for roasting WITH its fat  – for, “without skin, any attempts at roast pork with apple sauce and the skin bubbled deliciously crisp into crackling were doomed”. Fromage lovers won’t be disappointed either – Baxter devotes an entire chapter to the French love of cheese. “At any business lunch in France, serious discussion doesn’t take place until the end of the meal – ‘between the pear and the cheese’… Deals have failed because someone ate the Epoissese before the Brie or gobbled all the blue part of the Roquefort while leaving the less tasty white”. Seriously? Yup, Baxter doesn’t gloss over French snootiness. Even so, his visit to a particularly passionate fromager is one of the book’s highlights, in my opinion. Of course, it would be a downright travesty to tease our tastebuds will all manner of delicious descriptions, and not provide the recipes. Which, thankfully, are all at the end of the book.

RC Verdict: A tale of love and feasting, French style – with lots of cultural insights to boot – this book will appeal to any die-hard foodie. To buy, click here. You’ll get free shipping AND you’ll be doing a little bit towards supporting Reality Chick. Which is very much appreciated. Mwah.

Freelance journo, blogger, self-appointed advice-giver and co-author of Get Lucky. If you've got a dating or relationship issue, feel free to ask a question. (PS. You can also find me at The Mama Files and Letter To My Ex).

1 Comment

  1. KItty 9 years ago

    Yuuuuuuum!!!

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