So much of a visit to Provence is about food that I am going to devote a full page just to that - in addition to the Recipes section that is growing, and with your help, will soon be huge.

The French are masters at experiencing life, particularly its tastes. Even Charles DeGaulle noted the excesses to which the French will go, when he said, "How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?" In the grocery store, there will be a selection of 10 or more brands of water. Water! Each brand with it's own following.

At the heart of all French cooking are these three cornerstones:

  • Ingredients - must be fresh. Each area of the country has a speciality.
  • Technique - From sauces to bread to balance - the French still have a way of doing things with food that makes anything taste a little better.
  • Timing - It takes a long time to eat a good French meal. The French take their time. They sniff and taste and relax and truly enjoy the necessity of eating.

Here are a few of my choices, both for the beginning cook and the practiced chef.

Cookbooks

Cookbooks

If you're going to shop and cook in France, this is the must have book for you. It is absolutely fantastic: kinds of water, wine, breads, meats. Plenty of pictures and French/English translation. This is the best guide to a French market I have ever found.

I have an autographed version of this one. Julia brought French cooking into the american kitchen. I still referr to it from time to time. This is a great book to use or for your "collection."

This is the one I really use ... and not all of it is "French" cooking. But come across some wonderful meal in Provence and try it back home, you'll probably find something about it in Julia.

Julia Child was an American who learned to cook in France; Jacque Pepin is French and learned to cook in France, but now works and cooks in the US. What's interesting about this book, and the Television series is that they didn't always agree on technique or balance, but it's very helpful to compare how these two masters go about the same dish.

French Chefs

If your more in to the best of French Cooking today, Alain Ducasse is at the top of the list. This one is called an encyopedia. Le Grand Livre de cuisine d'Alain Ducasse is even more - almost the cost of a meal at his restaurant.

A little more modestly priced, Alain Ducasse offers a wonderful tour ov Porvencal cooking. It is thoroughly grounded in new cuisine health y cooking, but it is also thoroughly French. It's one of my favorites.

Jo?l Robuchon offers "all the inside information" if you are ambitious enough to follow. Not a beginners book, but very French ... and very tasty.

An upscale restaurant will often bring you an "Amuse-Bouche" - to amuse your mouth. Just a bite, mind you, to get you ready for what's to come. Try some of these, whether you are recreating a "Taste of Paris" or Provence.

Classics

The original French version was published in 1903. If you are interested in authentic old french cooking, this is it./ A word of caution: These recipes are not for the faint of heart - lots of ingredients and preprep - technique galore. What fun!

Richard likes this one. One of Jacque Pepin's earlier books, there are even instructions on how to boil an egg ... so the yolk will stay yellow and not turn gray on the outside. Richard likes the "boiled egg" part; hasn't tried the "debone the chicken" part, yet.

Another of Richard's favorites. Pierre Franey was the food editor at the New York Times; a famous chef before that. His books are all about basic technique and simple (meaning quick) preparation. Very easy to follow; always nice to have someone else do the cooking.

Guides

Hungry? Well ... Michelin is the standard, again. When a chef gets a Michelin star, his recoognition and fame shoot up like a rocket. Chefs are like Movie Stars, in France. But watch out - the prices usually go up, too.

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