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A French cheesemonger and an American academic join forces to serve up a sumptuous history of France and its food, in the delicious tradition of Anthony Bourdain, Peter Mayle, and Pamela Druckerman. Nearly 3 million Americans visit France every year, in addition to the more than 150,000 American expatriates who live there. Numerous bestselling books attest to American Franc A French cheesemonger and an American academic join forces to serve up a sumptuous history of France and its food, in the delicious tradition of Anthony Bourdain, Peter Mayle, and Pamela Druckerman. Nearly 3 million Americans visit France every year, in addition to the more than 150,000 American expatriates who live there. Numerous bestselling books attest to American Francophilia, to say nothing of bestselling cookbooks, like those of Julia Child and Paula Wolfert. Now, husband-and-wife team Stephane Henaut and Jeni Mitchell give us the rich history behind the food—from Roquefort and absinthe to couscous and Calvados. The tales in A Bite-Sized History of France will delight and edify even the most seasoned lovers of food, history, and all things French. From the crêpe that doomed Napoleon to the new foods borne of crusades and colonization to the rebellions sparked by bread and salt, the history of France—from the Roman era to modern times—is intimately entwined with its gastronomic pursuits. Traversing the cuisines of France’s most famous cities as well as its underexplored regions, this innovative culinary and social history includes travel tips; illustrations that explore the impact of war, imperialism, and global trade; the age-old tension between tradition and innovation; and the ways in which food has been used over the centuries to enforce social and political identities. A Bite-Sized History of France tells the compelling story of France through its food.


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A French cheesemonger and an American academic join forces to serve up a sumptuous history of France and its food, in the delicious tradition of Anthony Bourdain, Peter Mayle, and Pamela Druckerman. Nearly 3 million Americans visit France every year, in addition to the more than 150,000 American expatriates who live there. Numerous bestselling books attest to American Franc A French cheesemonger and an American academic join forces to serve up a sumptuous history of France and its food, in the delicious tradition of Anthony Bourdain, Peter Mayle, and Pamela Druckerman. Nearly 3 million Americans visit France every year, in addition to the more than 150,000 American expatriates who live there. Numerous bestselling books attest to American Francophilia, to say nothing of bestselling cookbooks, like those of Julia Child and Paula Wolfert. Now, husband-and-wife team Stephane Henaut and Jeni Mitchell give us the rich history behind the food—from Roquefort and absinthe to couscous and Calvados. The tales in A Bite-Sized History of France will delight and edify even the most seasoned lovers of food, history, and all things French. From the crêpe that doomed Napoleon to the new foods borne of crusades and colonization to the rebellions sparked by bread and salt, the history of France—from the Roman era to modern times—is intimately entwined with its gastronomic pursuits. Traversing the cuisines of France’s most famous cities as well as its underexplored regions, this innovative culinary and social history includes travel tips; illustrations that explore the impact of war, imperialism, and global trade; the age-old tension between tradition and innovation; and the ways in which food has been used over the centuries to enforce social and political identities. A Bite-Sized History of France tells the compelling story of France through its food.

30 review for A Bite-Sized History of France: Delicious, Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm Extraordinaire

    I have been reading this book for a little over a week now. I finally finished it last night, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. It isn't the type of book you sit down and read cover to cover, but it works well as an in between type of read. It was packed full of interesting facts and anecdotes about the history of France and its gastronomy. From Roquefort cheese to the wines of Bordeaux (and everything in between). It was a delightful read and one that made me want to rent a car and take a foodie tr I have been reading this book for a little over a week now. I finally finished it last night, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. It isn't the type of book you sit down and read cover to cover, but it works well as an in between type of read. It was packed full of interesting facts and anecdotes about the history of France and its gastronomy. From Roquefort cheese to the wines of Bordeaux (and everything in between). It was a delightful read and one that made me want to rent a car and take a foodie trip tout suite!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary Standeven

    I love French food (actually I love food full-stop), I love visiting France, and I am really interested in history, so this book was made for me. It is a staggering tour de force covering 2500 years of French history from the pre-Roman Gauls to the present day, showing the influence historical events had on the eating habits and cuisine of the time, and how they in turn influenced history. The authors’ aim is to show “how ludicrous it actually is to claim there is a “pure” and unchanging French I love French food (actually I love food full-stop), I love visiting France, and I am really interested in history, so this book was made for me. It is a staggering tour de force covering 2500 years of French history from the pre-Roman Gauls to the present day, showing the influence historical events had on the eating habits and cuisine of the time, and how they in turn influenced history. The authors’ aim is to show “how ludicrous it actually is to claim there is a “pure” and unchanging French cuisine”, and they spend a lot of time pointing out how crude, bigoted and plain wrong groups like the Front Nationale are claiming that there exists quintessential French Food and eating habits, unsullied by foreign hands. “Many elements believed to be ineffably French—the wines and liqueurs, the pastries and chocolates, the flavors of Provence—are not native to France but arrived upon its shores over the centuries and were gradually absorbed”. There is so much information in this book, and so many interesting facts to note down, but it never gets boring. The narrative style is very readable and witty, so you don’t feel weighed down by it all, and keep wanting to read more and more. There are introductions to great French leaders such as Charlemagne (responsible for the concept of Europe, and the proliferation of French honeymaking), Henry IV, Louis XIV, Napoleon and Charles de Gaulle, and how they used food to define their eras. Over the centuries food became a signifier of differences in class (“Food became more than just a marker of class—it was also used to justify the rule of one class over another. As certain foods became imbued with a sense of nobility and good health, others came to be seen as base and unhealthy, and it seemed only natural that those who consumed the former should enjoy an exalted position over the latter”); in religion (“the eating of forbidden foods was a sure marker of religious deviance”); in philosophy; in politics and as a flag of patriotism and nationalism. The book charts the change as “the spicy-acidic flavors of the medieval era were supplanted by the cream, butter, and herb triumvirate associated with modern French cuisine”, through the gourmet (gourmand) culinary revolution to nouvelle cuisine and McDonalds. It deals with the advent of restaurants (as the Middle Ages food guild sales privileges were curtailed), cafés (with their social as well as culinary functions) and bistros, and the rise of the ubiquitous baguette (actually only popular since the 1920s!). Scientific breakthroughs are discussed that leading to increased food preservation and availability, such as Appert’s bottling (precursor of canning), and Louis Pasteur’s work on improving wine production, that lead to huge leaps forward in the field of human health. Banquets were employed to support French diplomacy: “Talleyrand’s elegant dinners were intended to make his counterparts more receptive to his suggestions, but he also used them as a sort of culinary espionage tool. Knowing that fancy food and wine often loosened tongues, he instructed his service staff to listen in on his guests’ conversations and report details back to him”, and later to foment revolution as “the most effective way for critics of the regime to legally meet and sustain their cause”. The importance of cheeses (especially Camembert and Brie), of regional wines and champagne, to the French identity cannot be underemphasised. Other alcoholic drinks such as brandy, cognac, calvados, absinthe and Kir also have their part and historical imprint. France’s food has been moulded by slavery, colonialism and war. The slave and sugar trades were predominantly routed through Nantes. The warping of Senegalese agriculture to provide peanut oil to France, used in soap manufacture and “supplanting olive oil in dressings and driving a new taste for fried foods”. The North Africans and Pied Noirs brought couscous, now a French staple. I have travelled a lot in France, and tried so many local regional dishes, but this book shows that I have barely scratched the surface. I now have a huge list of places to visit, things to eat – enough to keep me busy and very well entertained for many years to come. I read this book on my Kindle, but loved it so much that I have bought two hard copies – one for myself, and one for my mother-in-law (another Francophile). I would recommend this book to anyone who likes food and/or history and/or travel and/or France. Something for everyone. I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lady Alexandrine

    The more I read this book the more hungry I got :) Also, it was impossible to read this book without a glass of French wine. via Wikimedia commons I have a confession to make: while I read this book I ate unprecedented amounts of French cheeses: Brie, Camembert and a variety of blue cheeses. The temptation was too great. Fortunately, I wasn’t on a diet, but if you are on a diet or plan one you should stay away from this book! This is a history of France told from the point of view of a total gourm The more I read this book the more hungry I got :) Also, it was impossible to read this book without a glass of French wine. via Wikimedia commons I have a confession to make: while I read this book I ate unprecedented amounts of French cheeses: Brie, Camembert and a variety of blue cheeses. The temptation was too great. Fortunately, I wasn’t on a diet, but if you are on a diet or plan one you should stay away from this book! This is a history of France told from the point of view of a total gourmand especially passionate about French cheeses. It is obvious that it is destined for American audience. There are some parts describing the history of France and of the world that are known well to every pupil at primary school in Europe, but there are also not so very well-known historical events and historical figures described. For example, I haven’t heard before about Claude, who was the first wife of king of France Francis I and a plum was named after her. There are also some interesting anecdotes, which may or may not be true, some of them are really charming stories. I will never look the same at the laughing cow on the label. I learned from this book of the origins of brandy and cognac. There are interesting facts about times when different foreign products were introduced to French cuisine and their initial reception. For example, chocolate and potatoes at the beginning were a total fail and no one wanted to consume them. Chocolate was too bitter in its original form. Potatoes on the other hand were thought to be poisonous and only suitable for animals’ feed. The authors visited some famous places in France with delicious local dishes and recommended them to readers. Surely, I would like to visit some of these places and try the local specialties! I think, there could be more photographs in the book. More pictures of places and dishes would make the experience of reading even better. I am a bit disappointed that there was nothing about dishes with snails and frogs in this book. French cuisine with no mention of frogs and snails? How is that even possible ;) But anyway... I gave this book four stars for this reason and also because I think that the conclusion in this book was redundant. It made it look a little like a PhD thesis. Also the political commentary seemed unnecessary and intrusive. Every reader can reach his own conclusions, when given the historical facts. I received "A Bite-Sized History of France" from the publisher via NetGalley. I would like to thank the authors and the publisher for providing me with the advance reader copy of the book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    David

    “Stepping out on your other book, eh?” was the response of the Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) when I told her that I was taking a summertime break from my difficult and serious Important Modern Novel to have a reading fling with this sweet young thing from France. It's not what it looks like, I swear. My relationship will this celebration of Gallic gustatory delights and historical quirks was very cerebral and purely platonic. Really. For example, this book made much clearer who Eleanor of Aquitaine “Stepping out on your other book, eh?” was the response of the Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) when I told her that I was taking a summertime break from my difficult and serious Important Modern Novel to have a reading fling with this sweet young thing from France. It's not what it looks like, I swear. My relationship will this celebration of Gallic gustatory delights and historical quirks was very cerebral and purely platonic. Really. For example, this book made much clearer who Eleanor of Aquitaine was and why I should care, and also made clear why being a vegetarian and a heretic at the same time is an unfortunate set of lifestyle choices. Loads of practical information, see? The authors, American wife and French husband, do a charming in-person presentation about this book. If you are fortunate enough to live in a place where they appear, swing around to your local independent bookstore (as I did on Bastille Day 2018) and give a listen. It will likely be both the most cheerful and the most educational thing you will do that week. She is a historian, he is a fancy chef and cheese expert. They live in France now. He talks first about the joint life experience that led to the book. She then does the heavy lifting on the history. If you possess poorly-suppressed Tom Ripley-like tendencies, you may fantasize about you and your LSW stealing the authors' enviable lives. Or so I've heard. If you cannot see them in person, get a 98-second taste (see what I did there?) of the husband talking French bread via YouTube here. If you were converting this book into a recipe, you might say it is two parts history to one part gastronomy, which is pretty close to my definition of a perfect read, but your milage may vary. It proceeds chronologically from pre-Roman times. Each chapter is an era. Each era is associated with a food, and the food and the era are associated with a historical figure. Sometimes the chapter starts with a description of the accepted canned myth surrounding the era/figure/food/region, which is then exploded and replaced with a better-research version of the story. As is often the case, the real story is more interesting than the accepted myth. I think this book will be more enjoyable if you can remember French and European history in broad outline, but you do not need to be an expert. The book begins and ends with a dressing down of the French political movement until recently called the National Front, and especially its attempts to use food as a political symbol and weapon. While doing this, the authors, I feel, make an unspoken nod of recognition to Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm and like-minded individuals, who have successfully (in my sight) labored to show that the great symbols of modern nationhood – which are being appropriated and misused by the repulsive nationalists all over the globe today – are not actually great dignified traditions of ancient lineage, but relatively new practices, often cribbed from other cultures. In summary, reading this book is a deeply enjoyable affair, even if, in the end, you must abandon your summer fantasy of throwing over your dreary Important Modern Novel and taking off for France, where you will improve your disposition by ignoring politics completely and reading exclusively about cheese.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alex Rychlewski

    I came at this book with a different perspective from most readers as a decades-long French resident and lover of good French food and wine. As such, I found much of the book a basic rehash of French history with overly-long simplistic explanations, and not enough attention paid to food, which is what prompted me to buy the book in the first place... This is why I skimmed so much of it (read “en diagonale”). I freely admit that someone with no knowledge of French history would take away more fro I came at this book with a different perspective from most readers as a decades-long French resident and lover of good French food and wine. As such, I found much of the book a basic rehash of French history with overly-long simplistic explanations, and not enough attention paid to food, which is what prompted me to buy the book in the first place... This is why I skimmed so much of it (read “en diagonale”). I freely admit that someone with no knowledge of French history would take away more from the book than I did. The problem is that basic points are belaboured unnecessarily and the book could have been better edited. That having been said, the basic idea behind the book was sound and worthwhile. Furthermore, I did enjoy a certain number of anecdotes and “factoids” I picked up. But, as the French say, je suis resté sur ma faim ! There are so very many points that were not brought up, but which should have been: UNESCO’s designation as the gastronomic meal of the French as “intangible world heritage”, the French lunch hour, the French consumption of frozen food, the rise of French AOC wines and decline of vin de table, French vegetarianism, the influence of foreign cuisine other than North African, the Semaine du Goût in French schools, changed habits because of working mothers, les cheques restaurant, etc., etc. You will not, however, be disappointed if you treat this as somewhat of an extended magazine article with interesting titbits to glean.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition

    A fascinating way to learn about France and Paris in particular, is through it's culinary history. I really enjoyed the easy, conversational narrative this book has - it was never dry or full. Full of insightful commentary about pertinent events involving food and history. Highly recommended! A fascinating way to learn about France and Paris in particular, is through it's culinary history. I really enjoyed the easy, conversational narrative this book has - it was never dry or full. Full of insightful commentary about pertinent events involving food and history. Highly recommended!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Randal White

    A fantastic way to learn history! Rather than another boring list of dates, people, and events, the authors take a completely different route. Use the deliciously wonderful foods of France to explain history! Why did the Romans consider the Germanic tribes barbarians? One big reason was because they cooked their food with butter, rather than olive oil! They also drank beer instead of wine. How uncouth! Did you know why soldiers called the Germans krauts? Because of their association with sauerkrau A fantastic way to learn history! Rather than another boring list of dates, people, and events, the authors take a completely different route. Use the deliciously wonderful foods of France to explain history! Why did the Romans consider the Germanic tribes barbarians? One big reason was because they cooked their food with butter, rather than olive oil! They also drank beer instead of wine. How uncouth! Did you know why soldiers called the Germans krauts? Because of their association with sauerkraut! Potatoes, honey, champagne, crepes....it's all in here, and tied to historical events. I only wish that I would have had this book when I was a student. How much more interesting history classes would have been!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    Travel back to the beginning and into present day with the history of France through its foods; this is the definitive book. Every chapter is a close look at a key event in French history along with the foodie consequences/side effects/highlights. It's absolutely fascinating. Of course, there are lots of chapters about wines and liquors, including Bordeaux, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, cognac, champagne ("the devil's wine"), and absinthe ("the curse of the green fairy"), as well as many of France's wond Travel back to the beginning and into present day with the history of France through its foods; this is the definitive book. Every chapter is a close look at a key event in French history along with the foodie consequences/side effects/highlights. It's absolutely fascinating. Of course, there are lots of chapters about wines and liquors, including Bordeaux, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, cognac, champagne ("the devil's wine"), and absinthe ("the curse of the green fairy"), as well as many of France's wonderful cheeses, plus all of France's iconic foods, but there are also intriguing chapters about salt, honey, peanuts, and sugar. If you have any interest in France and/or French foods and drinks, this is a must-read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    After reading "A Bite-Sized History of France," I've decided all history books should be centered around gastronomy. The book is written in truly digestible chunks; each chapter is only around 3-5 pages long, each based around some aspect of French gastronomy - from the essential wines and cheeses to more obscure culinary staples and oddities from across France. In the process, it covers everything from the early Gauls and the arrival of the Romans to the present day in a mere 286 pages. "A Bite- After reading "A Bite-Sized History of France," I've decided all history books should be centered around gastronomy. The book is written in truly digestible chunks; each chapter is only around 3-5 pages long, each based around some aspect of French gastronomy - from the essential wines and cheeses to more obscure culinary staples and oddities from across France. In the process, it covers everything from the early Gauls and the arrival of the Romans to the present day in a mere 286 pages. "A Bite-Sized History of France" is also frank about the darker parts of French history, including colonialism, the slave trade, and the Crusades, and unabashedly stands up to the politicians who would use French gastronomy as a tool of their xenophobia. Francophiles, gastronomers, and activists alike will enjoy this history of France. Anyone's enjoyment will be greatly enhanced with a glass of French wine in hand.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher --- A French cheesemonger and an American academic join forces to serve up a sumptuous history of France and its food, in the delicious tradition of Anthony Bourdain, Peter Mayle, and Pamela Druckerman Nearly 3 million Americans visit France every year, in addition to the more than 150,000 American expatriates who live there. Numerous bestselling books attest to American Fran I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher --- A French cheesemonger and an American academic join forces to serve up a sumptuous history of France and its food, in the delicious tradition of Anthony Bourdain, Peter Mayle, and Pamela Druckerman Nearly 3 million Americans visit France every year, in addition to the more than 150,000 American expatriates who live there. Numerous bestselling books attest to American Francophilia, to say nothing of bestselling cookbooks, like those of Julia Child and Paula Wolfert. Now, husband-and-wife team Stephane Henaut and Jeni Mitchell give us the rich history behind the food—from Roquefort and absinthe to couscous and Calvados. The tales in A Bite-Sized History of France will delight and edify even the most seasoned lovers of food, history, and all things French. From the crêpe that doomed Napoleon to the new foods borne of crusades and colonization to the rebellions sparked by bread and salt, the history of France—from the Roman era to modern times—is intimately entwined with its gastronomic pursuits. Traversing the cuisines of France’s most famous cities as well as its underexplored regions, this innovative culinary and social history includes travel tips; illustrations that explore the impact of war, imperialism, and global trade; the age-old tension between tradition and innovation; and the ways in which food has been used over the centuries to enforce social and political identities. A Bite-Sized History of France tells the compelling story of France through its food. What an interesting book!! I had zero ideas about most, if not all, of the stories behind these foods --- of course, I am now hungry and wanting to blow my diet in about 7000 different ways! The stories are engaging and downright funny at times- any fan of food (or France) will love this book! As I write this I just heard about Anthony Bourdain’s death: he would love the food in this book and this book. Godspeed ☹

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christina Dudley

    This was a fun book for history- and food-lovers alike. The French-and-American author couple go from pre-Roman times right up to the present, regaling us with lots of mini food histories, collisions of culture, and who-knew? moments. Food often served as class markers, nobles disdaining root vegetables in the Middle Ages, for instance, since that's what the peasants had to eat. At least they could plant a variety of root vegetables. By the 18th century, the poorest classes might get 95% of their This was a fun book for history- and food-lovers alike. The French-and-American author couple go from pre-Roman times right up to the present, regaling us with lots of mini food histories, collisions of culture, and who-knew? moments. Food often served as class markers, nobles disdaining root vegetables in the Middle Ages, for instance, since that's what the peasants had to eat. At least they could plant a variety of root vegetables. By the 18th century, the poorest classes might get 95% of their daily calories from whole-grain bread--hence their furor when bread ran short. The Crusades introduced sugar to Europe. Louis XIV was autopsied at death and found to have a stomach "three times larger than that of a normal adult," into which he had shoveled astounding amounts of food. "J'ai la patate!" ("I've got the potato!") might be said by a French person feeling fine. Alternately, if he thought something only so-so, it might be "half fig, half grape" (mi-figue, mi-raisin). If you're looking for a book to give your French teacher or family Francophile, this would be a great choice.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition

    A fascinating way to learn about France and Paris in particular, is through it's culinary history. I really enjoyed the easy, conversational narrative this book has - it was never dry or full. Full of insightful commentary about pertinent events involving food and history. Highly recommended! A fascinating way to learn about France and Paris in particular, is through it's culinary history. I really enjoyed the easy, conversational narrative this book has - it was never dry or full. Full of insightful commentary about pertinent events involving food and history. Highly recommended!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shiloah

    So much great history and how it relates to French culture and food. I also learned a lot about the wines which I knew nothing about.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Rowan

    This is the sort of book that will get you up out of your chair to root around in the refrigerator for something really tasty to eat. It deals with bread, and cheese, and wine, of course. How could it not? But it also gives the reader an insight into how the potato came to be so loved in France, or what fruit excites the most anticipation in the summer (It's the plum. Who knew?) It is a history of France, seen through the lens of its culinary interests and obsessions.  We learn, for example, that This is the sort of book that will get you up out of your chair to root around in the refrigerator for something really tasty to eat. It deals with bread, and cheese, and wine, of course. How could it not? But it also gives the reader an insight into how the potato came to be so loved in France, or what fruit excites the most anticipation in the summer (It's the plum. Who knew?) It is a history of France, seen through the lens of its culinary interests and obsessions.  We learn, for example, that Roquefort cheese is something very specific to France, and the chances of finding it in the US is slim.  Ditto French brie, which is apparently nothing like the brie we eat in the states. Much has to do with food regulations, some put in place out of (a sometimes mistaken) sense of public welfare, and others as punitive. The Iraq war "freedom fries" kerfuffle (definitely not our finest hour) is mentioned along with the information that since frites are actually Belgian, the French didn't really much care if we changed the name out of pique. No skin off their potatoes.  And in fairness, they're not immune to rebranding themselves. During the revolution, bakers were forced to create something known as pain d'egalite, or equality bread, which was to be eaten by both high and low alike. While not exhaustive, some of the later chapters failed to hold my full attention, suggesting that perhaps the historical survey of French eating habits might have been better served if it had been a course or two shorter.  Still, it's an amusing and informative book that will probably make you hungry.  Well worth a look.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

    A week ago I listened to a podcast episode of "Stuff You Missed In History Class" on Marie-Antoine Carême, the first 'Celebrity Chef'. I learned so much about the history of cooking in France in the 30 minute episode and was wondering whether there was a book out there on this very topic. Fortuitously, I came across this book on Netgalley and devoured it in just a couple of days. I was not disappointed and I learned so much more about the history of France. The links between the political circum A week ago I listened to a podcast episode of "Stuff You Missed In History Class" on Marie-Antoine Carême, the first 'Celebrity Chef'. I learned so much about the history of cooking in France in the 30 minute episode and was wondering whether there was a book out there on this very topic. Fortuitously, I came across this book on Netgalley and devoured it in just a couple of days. I was not disappointed and I learned so much more about the history of France. The links between the political circumstances and gastronomy were well drawn by the authors and was fascinating reading. I highly recommend this book for history buffs and foodies - just try not to read it on an empty stomach. Maybe have a baguette, wine and cheese on hand.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    This is a fun book with short chapters digging in to the culinary history of France--linking the Muslim invasion of the 8th century with goat cheese, Louis Xiv and his fondness for oranges (not Dutch people, oranges), the French Revolution and bread riots, the olive oil/butter and chocolate/coffee lines of demarcation in early modern Europe, the mother sauces and Julia Child's friend Simca and her dynastic connection to making Benedictine (and her use of this knowledge to aid her family's WWII s This is a fun book with short chapters digging in to the culinary history of France--linking the Muslim invasion of the 8th century with goat cheese, Louis Xiv and his fondness for oranges (not Dutch people, oranges), the French Revolution and bread riots, the olive oil/butter and chocolate/coffee lines of demarcation in early modern Europe, the mother sauces and Julia Child's friend Simca and her dynastic connection to making Benedictine (and her use of this knowledge to aid her family's WWII survival).

  17. 4 out of 5

    Literary Redhead

    I love France, food and history, so A BITE-SIZED HISTORY OF FRANCE was a perfect read! Left my tummy hungry for French gastric delights but satiated by a great historical review. 5/5 Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the review copy. Opinions are mine.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Collin Mickle

    It's glib and unscholarly, but at least it's also much too long. It's glib and unscholarly, but at least it's also much too long.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    If you are at all interested in food, France, or history, then Stephane Henaut and Jeni Miller's book "A Bite-Sized History of France: Delicious, Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment" is for you. It is delectable. While it's cutesy title suggests a book of apocryphal anecdotes about the French and food, it is a serious book about French history stemming from its ancient beginnings with the Roman conquest through monarchy, revolution, the World Wars to today's globalization. Ho If you are at all interested in food, France, or history, then Stephane Henaut and Jeni Miller's book "A Bite-Sized History of France: Delicious, Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment" is for you. It is delectable. While it's cutesy title suggests a book of apocryphal anecdotes about the French and food, it is a serious book about French history stemming from its ancient beginnings with the Roman conquest through monarchy, revolution, the World Wars to today's globalization. However, true to its title, each chapter is a short exploration of how the French foods that we know (or want to know) and love intersect with its history, and it is fascinating. Everything from the rise of cafés and bistros, absinthe and calvados, brie and camembert, croissants and baguettes, oysters and sel de mer, and peanuts and more are discussed. It is engaging and witty, but does not shy away from the ugliness of French history, imperialism, and racism. For someone like me, who only knows random bits of French history (a product of being raised on American presidents and English monarchy), this book helps put a lot of events in place. If you have plans on traveling to France, then this is a must read before you go because this knowledge will enliven your experience and even provide you with some destinations you may not have thought of originally. By far my favorite part of this book, besides showing how we have more in common with the French than we thought, is how the authors use their book to undermine and ridicule the National Front's aims at promoting and preserving a "pure French culture". French food is an amalgamation of many cultures throughout time. The foods that make France French were often introduced by other cultures and are not "pure" to France at all. Nationalist movements want to put forth a simplistic and incorrect history to exclude the diversity that made the country what it is in the first place. So to Henaut and Miller, I say "à votre santé!" (cheers!). I highly, highly recommend this book and it will pair nicely with Ina Caro's "Paris to the Past: Traveling Through French History by Train".

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Dagg

    This book is deliciously fascinating. What better way to learn about a country’s history than by being introduced to it around a certain food item, such as artichokes, wine or cheese. The author explains how politics, economics and culture link with food in ‘foodways’, which reveal a great deal about a country. We discover many such foodways in this book. The book is like a plate of nibbles – bite-sized chunks of history and food at a time. We learn about Gauls as the same time as wine, Barbaria This book is deliciously fascinating. What better way to learn about a country’s history than by being introduced to it around a certain food item, such as artichokes, wine or cheese. The author explains how politics, economics and culture link with food in ‘foodways’, which reveal a great deal about a country. We discover many such foodways in this book. The book is like a plate of nibbles – bite-sized chunks of history and food at a time. We learn about Gauls as the same time as wine, Barbarians and table manners, The Battles of Tours and Poitiers and goat cheese, Charlemagne and honey, Viking invasions and Bénédictine liqueur, feudalism and diet, the Crusades and plums, Eleanor of Aquitaine and claret, Cathars and vegetarianism, taxes and seasalt, the Black Prince and cassoulet, the plague and vinegar, Charles the Mad and Roquefort, the Renaissance and oranges, colonisation and chocolate, sugar, forks and Catherine de Medici, chickens and King Henry iV… and that’s just for starters! Many other snippets of info are sprinkled like condiments over the main ingredients to pique our appetite. This really is a feast of a book. Just as it’s hard to relinquish a plate a plate of moreish food, it’s very hard to put down the book once you’ve started reading. The author’s style is thoroughly engaging and enjoyable. He’s witty as well as wise, and you learn so much without realising it. He communicates so passionately and knowledgeably it’s hard not to be won over. Like your favourite restaurant, this book is absolutely to be recommended. I have voluntarily reviewed this book, which I received from NetGalley.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shoshana

    What a charming and delightful book this is. From rustic kitchens to haute cuisine, French food and gastronomy are the best in the world. This terrific book tells the story of how French cuisine came about. Starting with the Celtic Gauls and ending with the post WWII wrangles between France and the United States, this volume is chock-a-block with interesting tidbits about French foodways and French history. Written by a Frenchman and his American wife, and infused with good nature and enthusiasm What a charming and delightful book this is. From rustic kitchens to haute cuisine, French food and gastronomy are the best in the world. This terrific book tells the story of how French cuisine came about. Starting with the Celtic Gauls and ending with the post WWII wrangles between France and the United States, this volume is chock-a-block with interesting tidbits about French foodways and French history. Written by a Frenchman and his American wife, and infused with good nature and enthusiasm for the subject, “A Bite-Sized History of France” shows the centuries-long tension between Paris and the rest of France; the absorption by France of the best of foreign cuisines; and makes the case that human beings have more in common than it can look like on the surface. That the authors know and love food and food history is apparent on every page, or in my case, every pixel. One of the nice things about this book is the shortish chapters; you can dip in and out of the book as you have time, or read it in chunks; sort of like a snack or having a meal, either works. “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are,” said Brillat-Savarin, the famous epicure and gastronome. “A Bite-Sized History of France,” tells us that the French, and those of us lucky enough to also participate in their cuisine, are fortunate indeed. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Deirdre

    Very interesting bits of history that I didn't know, and not all them about food. Worst complaint? The font size made it very difficult for me to read without tiring my eyes and making me drift off to sleep many times. Way too small. The other complaint I have is - there are no recipes! Definitely this book needs a companion book of recipes. Poulet Marengo, mentioned in this book, doesn't appear in French cookbooks anymore, and when I made it for my father when I was sixteen, I remember how we b Very interesting bits of history that I didn't know, and not all them about food. Worst complaint? The font size made it very difficult for me to read without tiring my eyes and making me drift off to sleep many times. Way too small. The other complaint I have is - there are no recipes! Definitely this book needs a companion book of recipes. Poulet Marengo, mentioned in this book, doesn't appear in French cookbooks anymore, and when I made it for my father when I was sixteen, I remember how we both enjoyed it. I have since lost the recipe many moons ago. Writing about how potatoes were finally accepted by the French, but no famous and delicious recipes that have been invented for them by French chefs. Bread is rather skipped over. There are certainly more breads than just the baguette. Personally, I prefer a Pain de Compaigne (country bread), which I find essential for making a good Croque Monsieur or Croque Madame with lovely, never to be substituted Gruyere cheese and a bit of Mornay sauce. Good for other sandwiches too and makes great toast. I suggest this be read while enjoying a wine of your choice with some marvelous cheeses, and if not some bread, then some fruit.

  23. 4 out of 5

    thefourthvine

    This book is 50% history, 30% food, and 20% travel brochure, and although that was not the ratio I was hoping for, it turned out to work pretty well for me. I suspect that the history would work best for people who (like me) know very little about French history, because when we got to the areas I did already know about, I spent a lot of time going, “But what about...?” The thing I liked best about this is — okay. Most books written for an American audience about France are written in what I coul This book is 50% history, 30% food, and 20% travel brochure, and although that was not the ratio I was hoping for, it turned out to work pretty well for me. I suspect that the history would work best for people who (like me) know very little about French history, because when we got to the areas I did already know about, I spent a lot of time going, “But what about...?” The thing I liked best about this is — okay. Most books written for an American audience about France are written in what I could best describe as “precious expat” style. The authors focus on French pianos or the food of Provence or whatever, but they don’t place their subject within the context of modern France, because they don’t know anything about modern France beyond the few French people they interact with. These authors actually do seem to know about, for example, the political context of their writing, possibly because one of them is actually French. It makes a huge difference. This is France presented as a real country instead of a charming little pocket of history.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Beth Cato

    I received a copy of this book via Netgalley. The book proposes to tell the vast and complex history of France through its foods, and it succeeds. As a foodie and a history buff, I found the approach fascinating and amusing. The authors directly confront the contemporary insistence of the far-right that France's foods should be kept "French" by emphasizing that most every food France is known for has a lineage in ingredients or innovations from elsewhere. The history begins with Rome and its infl I received a copy of this book via Netgalley. The book proposes to tell the vast and complex history of France through its foods, and it succeeds. As a foodie and a history buff, I found the approach fascinating and amusing. The authors directly confront the contemporary insistence of the far-right that France's foods should be kept "French" by emphasizing that most every food France is known for has a lineage in ingredients or innovations from elsewhere. The history begins with Rome and its influences, continues through the monastic era's liquors and royal obsessions with vegetables, and concludes with tales related to Laughing Cow cheese and contemporary couscous. Even familiar tales felt new and fun. Each chapter is indeed bite-sized and brief, making this an ideal read to work through in snippets as time allows.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Noah Goats

    This would be a nice book to read if you're planning a trip to France (unfortunately, I have no such plans for the near future). A Bite-Sized History of France will make your mouth water for all those delicious dishes, cheeses, and breads. This book retells the story of French history at a very high level, so if you know much about that history, this book may drag a bit. But the authors weave stories about food into the general French history and I found these parts more interesting. It's a fun, This would be a nice book to read if you're planning a trip to France (unfortunately, I have no such plans for the near future). A Bite-Sized History of France will make your mouth water for all those delicious dishes, cheeses, and breads. This book retells the story of French history at a very high level, so if you know much about that history, this book may drag a bit. But the authors weave stories about food into the general French history and I found these parts more interesting. It's a fun, likable book. I listened to the audio version narrated by Derek Perkins and, as always, he did a great job. In a nutshell: This is an ideal book for anybody interested in food who knows almost nothing about French history but would like to learn.

  26. 5 out of 5

    J. Lee Hazlett

    An excellent book for any reader with an interest in food, wine, or history, even if your interest isn't specifically French history. 'Bite-Sized' blends gastronomy with events both past and present, highlighting the importance of history to food as well as the importance of food to history. I have never been more interested in France than I was at the conclusion of this book, and that's without considering the dozens of new foods that I now want to try. I would recommend this book to anyone who An excellent book for any reader with an interest in food, wine, or history, even if your interest isn't specifically French history. 'Bite-Sized' blends gastronomy with events both past and present, highlighting the importance of history to food as well as the importance of food to history. I have never been more interested in France than I was at the conclusion of this book, and that's without considering the dozens of new foods that I now want to try. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to expand their palate, their knowledge and understanding of European and/or world history, or their insight into regional cultures as a concept. Intelligent and fun, this is a book you will not want to put down - unless, that is, you need to top off your wine or cut another bite of cheese.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ Jenn Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ Schu

    I chose this book since I was planning a trip to Paris and was looking to learn a bit more on the cuisine that is infamous for it's flavors from the rustic to the more modern stylings. I loved learning about the history of France through it's culinary styles. I already knew quite a bit about Julia Child and have tried several of her recipes at home. So, reading and learning more about French cuisine was perfect for those inclined towards French food. A mouthwatering read that I would recommend. I chose this book since I was planning a trip to Paris and was looking to learn a bit more on the cuisine that is infamous for it's flavors from the rustic to the more modern stylings. I loved learning about the history of France through it's culinary styles. I already knew quite a bit about Julia Child and have tried several of her recipes at home. So, reading and learning more about French cuisine was perfect for those inclined towards French food. A mouthwatering read that I would recommend. A Net Galley book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ann T

    Thank you the New Press and Netgalley for this ARC. I was excited to have the opportunity to read this book in the lead up to our first visit to France. I thoroughly enjoyed dipping in and out of the book, learning about their food, history and other entertaining snippets in preparation for our arrival.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andie

    A history of France told through its culinary dishes is an interesting idea. And here we have the Albigensian Heresy linked with the region's cassoulet, the Franco-Prussian War and the beer and sausages of Alsace, the French Revolution and the famous baguettes of Paris, and many, many more. History has never tasted so good. A history of France told through its culinary dishes is an interesting idea. And here we have the Albigensian Heresy linked with the region's cassoulet, the Franco-Prussian War and the beer and sausages of Alsace, the French Revolution and the famous baguettes of Paris, and many, many more. History has never tasted so good.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    If you are interested in France or French food, you'll love this book. It's written in an easy, entertaining style and a lot of fun to read and learn. Many thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for my ARC. All opinions are my own. If you are interested in France or French food, you'll love this book. It's written in an easy, entertaining style and a lot of fun to read and learn. Many thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for my ARC. All opinions are my own.

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