"Flavour was very important to me: the freshness and smell of fruit without the sugar or ice cream on it, or a vegetable cooked without oil; the texture and savour of a perfectly ripened Vacherin cheese, the bouquet of a full-bodied wine--all were perfectly wrapped gifts straight from Mother Nature."
~ Freedom Fries and Café Crème, Jocelyne Rapinac
Freedom Fries and Café Crème is chock-full of wisdom about food, travel, and love, and I savored the stories in this collection, which are set in the U.S. as well as France. In chapter 8, August - The American Dream, we learn about "la France profonde", when Matt visits Montpellier in Southern France to broaden his experience, where he also encounters love (fittingly, she's a waitress named after a type of spice). Not only do these stories uniquely combine food, travel, and love, but they're also imaginative and engaging, although some worked better for me than others (a few seemed a tad unfinished, more like sketches). Additionally, the book has recipes for the food mentioned in the stories at the conclusion of chapters, such as Armand's Yummy Soup, Tapenade Maison (Black Olive Spread), and Victoria's New Orleans Chocolate Truffles. I can imagine dazzling others--as well as myself--with homemade chocolate truffles in the near future.
Jocelyne Rapinac's ideas and philosophy about food reign supreme in Freedom Fries and Café Crème, and her more general ideas about living a good life are also presented throughout the pages (a simple life doesn't necessarily mean a boring one, except perhaps to the uninitiated). In a nutshell, the author believes in preparing meals from fresh and seasonal ingredients, letting the real flavors come through fully. She thinks that cooking and eating well are vital arts, essential to la bonne vie, which may entail living more simply, and getting back to basics (because basics can be really good, better than the newfangled). For example, I pose this "question" to coffee drinkers: what can compare to the taste and aroma of a cup of fresh, regular coffee? I don't usually care for overly-sweetened coffee drinks, and much prefer a good cup of "plain" coffee (with a dash of soymilk, or some frothed milk and cinnamon).
Like the author, I believe that dining should be a healthy (but not orthorexic) experience which provides pleasure. Sharing a meal with others, with family or friends or romantic partners (who will hopefully be compatible, foodwise), is important to the author, who encourages us to dine in a more leisurely fashion, and to enjoy home-cooked meals on a regular basis. In the last chapter of the book, December - Food, Comfort and Joy, the narrator, a therapist, who is talking to a very obese patient, Dominic, notes that she decided to work part time while she was raising her children, so that she'd have enough time to shop and cook for her family, because this is what she values (rather than a larger paycheck); cooking is caring. This therapist also has a reproduction of a vibrant Matisse painting (pictured below) in her office that I have in my own home, a picture that highlights the perfection of colorful produce, and the broader idea of dining as an elegant art, which added to the kinship I already felt toward the author.
|The Red Room by Henri Matisse|
Freedom Fries and Café Crème will appeal to those who enjoy intelligent, reflective short stories with a French flavor, about food, travel, and love. Thanks to Meryl and Rachel from Meryl Zegarek Public Relations for sending me a copy of this wonderful book to review.