Published By: Harper Perennial
Book Category: Non-Fiction,
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Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair
John Baxter, an Australian raised without a particular sense of fine dining–or appreciation of food–finds himself to be the cook for his French wife’s extended family’s Christmas dinner. How could that happen?
Written as a guide to A Paris Christmas, Immoveable Feast is more of a comparative exploration of various food traditions worldwide than merely a study of the Parisian holiday. The narrative is set against Christmas dinners and traditions the author had experienced throughout his life, leading up to his French marriage and subsequent role as
Christmas dinner chef. But the author, an Australian native who had lived everywhere from California to London prior to landing in Paris, has a much broader view of the
gastronomic event known as “Christmas Dinner.”
As the author takes readers through his life and travels, he educates us on such broad topics as cheese, oysters, bread, wine, apples and pork. Each chapter takes on a specific topic, and while presenting readers the history of the food–be it the different types of apples available in England versus France or the drinking habits of Australians–he also gives readers a sometimes touching, often humorous glimpse into his very interesting life.
While there are no recipes as such included, it’s worth noting that the simplistic approach to food described in the chapters on pork and apples led me to cook the very dish described for dinner that night. I am pleased to report the author had it right and that simple no-fuss dish will be on our table frequently in the future.
Baxter’s Immoveable Feast gives readers a feel for the traditions behind food. Whether it’s his visit to the shop with hundreds of cheeses or the story of a man’s annual trip to the goat herder to collect this year’s cheese, his stories leave readers with of a sense of connection between people and their food that goes well beyond nourishment.
Armchair Interviews says: Sounds like a yummy look at food’s traditions.