French Lessons: the roundup

14 11 2009

Hello everyone!

I am Jo from Food Junkie, this term’s host of Cook the Books, and it is time for all of you to meet our contestants, who read and cooked from Peter Mayle’s French Lessons.

I was sure that the book would inspire some mouth watering dishes with an inclination towards cream and cheese, and I was very excited to see the results. I was also intrigued by the fact that the book was not so popular with all of the contestants, some found it mediocre while others completely uninteresting, but I admired their frankness and I think that this is more important than keeping everyone happy all the time. After all we all have very different tastes in food, so why not in literature too?

Ok, so here is a list of all participants with a small description of their dish. Our judge  will be Beth from Beth Fish Reads, who maintains a very thorough literature blog and is a passionate foodie too!

Crepes aux Epinards et Fromage

Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies was inspired by the chapter on the “Thigh Tasters of Vittel” and especially the early morning wine pairings that Mayle describes in the book. So she made Crepes aux Epinards et Fromage (Spinach and Cheese crepes) for breakfast and had them with some red wine. A very decadent way to start the day for sure!

Honey from rock

Claudia of Honey from Rock moderately liked the book, but was inspired enough by the three-Michelin Star restaurant descriptions of the last chapter when Mayele enjoys a spa and gastronomic weekend at Eugenie-les bains spa. So she set out to make Omelette aux Truffes, a rather extravagant dish because of the use of the expensive fungus, but admittedly one of the best ways to showcase the aroma and texture of good truffle. Unfortunately she couldn’t find any fresh ones and the preserved one she used didn’t have a very strong taste. However, this plump omelette surely looks inviting enough!

Macaroni and Cheese with Gruyere and Mushrooms

Joanne of Eats well with others also didn’t like the book that much, but she did enjoy the chapter on the Marathon du Medoc. I actually agree with her that it was one of the best chapters in the book. Being a runner herself she was amazed by the heavy meal the runners had the day before the race, but since she wasn’t going to run any time soon, she made Macaronis et Fromage Avec Des Champignons (Macaroni and Cheese with Gruyere and Mushrooms) a “play on the macaroni and cheese we all know and love. I don’t know about you, but I think this is perfect comfort food!

Seventh level

Beth of Seventh Level of boredom really enjoyed the book, despite the fact that at first it struck her “as an arrogant account of one man’s travels through France on a no-holds-barred mission to eat and get drunk, with a seemingly limitless line of credit”.  She actually found the meal that Mayle had in Bresse very inspiring, so she cooked the kind of dish I always associate with French bistro cooking,  Poulet a la creme (chicken with cream). She suggests you eat this the minute you make it and I couldn’t agree more!

Chicken with creme and mushrooms

Maria of Organically Cooked liked the book and found that the French have many similarities with the Greeks living in Crete. She notices that “they both love smoking and find it frigging hard to obey the recently introduced smoking bans in their countries. Then they both love their long extended lunches and siestas. They both also take pride in their institutions, which may sound a little old-fashioned in some ways, as if they have not moved on with the times, but hey, that’s the Greeks (or the French) for you”. I would also add that they both take great pride in their cuisine. Anyway, Maria left her Mediterranean diet aside for a while and made Chicken with creme and mushrooms, also inspired by Mayle’s meal in Bresse. She tried to get hold of an excellent quality chicken and to make do with ingredients that were available in her part of the world and from what I see the results were excellent!


Simona from Briciole , an Italian-English blog, was inspired by the chapter dedicated to the wine auction in Burgundy. Although she doesn’t like wine that much, she was intrigued by the puff pastry nuggets Mayle tried together there, so she made Gougères a la Gouda. And guess what, the Gouda she used she made herself too! Now HOW COOL IS THAT!?

Gratin Savoyarde

Porc a la Normandie

Judy of Judy’s Gross Eats liked the book and particularly the chapter on the Marathon du Medoc. So she cooked up not one but two dishes: a gratin Savoyarde and Porc a la Normandie. Unfortunately she doesn’t give us any of these recipes!


Alicia of Foodycat didn’t like the book that much and wasn’t moved to either taste any of the food described in there or visit any of the food festivals. Inspiration for cooking up something French-related only came while watching Eating in the Sun on BBC television and their visit to Alain Ducasse’s restaurant La Bastide de Moustiers.  So she cooked up a squash and truffle spelt risotto which would tie in nicely with the whole chapter on truffles that Mayle had in the book. The final result was not as good as expected truffle-wise, because, like Claudia (of Honey from Rock) she didn’t use any fresh truffles, only jarred ones (I have now decided never to buy anything but the real thing). Other than that, however, it was a yummy dish and I certainly believe her!

Coq au riesling

Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, co-founder of Cook the Books Club, liked the book and since she had a hard time finding something entirely related to the book to cook she decided to stick to something French instead, so she made Coq au Riesling. This is a traditional an Alsatian variation of the more well-known Coq au vin, where the red Burgundian wine is substituted by the white fruity Riesling wine which is abundant in the area. She actually prefers it to Coq auVin and I couldn’t agree more!

Pastry Wrapped Brie

Last but not least the Rachel of The Crispy Cook, also a Cook the Books co-founder, really loved the book and  was inspired to visit some food festivals in her area (Bennington’s Garlic Festival and the Washington County Cheese Tour)! Rachel loves cheese so she decided to make a pastry wrapped Brie, which sounds like an easy thing to do but isn’t if you are making it gluten free (her blog specializes in wheat and gluten free recipes).


Finally,  my own entry for Cook the Books, which, compared to all the lovely food presented above is going to be very boring indeed, was a wedge of Livarot cheese inspired of course by the chapter “Love at first sniff” which describes Mayle’s visit to the village of Livarot for a cheese festival. I was actually so surprised and excited to be able to find this cheese in Greece, that I didn’t think twice about cooking up anything. Plus, since I am the host, I am not being judged!


That was it folks! I hope we will see all of you for our next November-January Cook the Books event where Rachel, The Crispy Cook will be hosting. She will take us on an adventure around the globe with her pick the foodie/travel memoir, A Taste for Adventure: A Culinary Odyssey Around the World by Anik See.

Till then au revoir!



13 responses

14 11 2009

Delicious round-up! I can'[t wait to read more of Mayle’s books – such fun!

14 11 2009

Thanks Jo for hosting and for the roundup!

14 11 2009
maria v

this was thoroughly enjoyable; it shows that a lot of culinary knowledge can be gained from a book even if the book wasn;t the most exciting read. i wouldnt mind that truffle omelette myself…

14 11 2009

Great roundup! Thanks for hosting Jo. Lovely looking dishes from everyone. I had an enormous lunch but now I want some chicken with mushrooms.

15 11 2009

What fun and lots of great dishes. I can’t wait to get around to read everyone’s post. Great job with the round-up Jo!

15 11 2009

Magnifique! It looks like we all had fun with this book and in the kitchen.

15 11 2009
My Year on the Grill

Great job Jo… I need to get up to speed on this group, sounds like great fun

15 11 2009

My hat is off to all of you who came up with such inspired dishes. While I am in the “didn’t care for this book camp,” I had intended to cook something with garlic, a food festival we’ve attended in the recent past. I confess I completely forgot about this. I have the next book and will try to start it after I finish the one for my “in real time” book club. Thanks for a great round up, Jo.

16 11 2009

I must admit that I am in agreement with Beth. I did find the book somewhat self-serving, but did not give up on it entirely. It just wasn’t something that I got enthusiastic about. I wish I could say that I had. I am enjoying A Taste for Adventure, however, and look forward to attempting some of her suggestions. I am so impressed with her independence and the opportunities that she experienced. I can’t wait to see where she goes next!

16 11 2009

Sorry about the lack of recipes in my post. Being a somewhat perfectionist cook, I felt there were flaws in both recipes and didn’t want anyone who tried them to think it was their fault. I should really sit down and re-write them because they were actually quite delicious.

I’ve read several other of Mayle’s books, and perhaps it’s his style of writing/point of view that may turn some readers off. With so many authors, though, I suppose we can’t like each and every one, and that’s why we read.

16 11 2009
Can't Believe We Ate...

I’m so glad you were able to do better than I did! I just didn’t find anything that inspired me, and I didn’t find ingredients that inspired me to jump in…and Life has been too much of a mess to really wallow in trying and trying and trying. Oh well…this too shall pass! Great dishes everyone! I’m impressed!!

17 11 2009
Beth F

Oh gosh I’m very hungry now — this is really hard, a few more days and I’ll have a winner!

19 11 2009
Beth F

Judging update: I will be picking a winner on Friday and I will feature this blog, all the contest entry blogs, and my wonderful experience as your judge as my post for my Weekend Cooking feature that I host on my blog.

My blog is mostly about books, but readers like to read about food and they like to cook too. So just another day or so and I’ll have a winner.

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