Les Trentes Glorieuses, the thirty-year period in France after World War II, saw a period of celebration and enlightenment in Paris that rebuilt the city as a capital of fashion, tourism, and, as American historian Justin Spring reminds us, food. Spring’s latest book, The Gourmand’s Way, chronicles the Parisian adventures of six American food writers — A.J. Liebling, Alice B. Toklas, Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, Alexis Lichine and Richard Olney — who spread their love of French food culture back to the U.S. At a time when many Americans were embracing processed food, these six roused a longing for rich, luxurious and meticulously-prepared French meals. The writings and cookbooks this group released inspired a new devotion to crafting the perfect gastronomic experience through home cooking with the right ingredients, perfect atmosphere and French techniques.
More than just the dishes, it is the voice and individual background of the sextet that make them so memorable. Liebling, a war correspondent turned French food fanatic describes eating in Paris as his life’s greatest joy. Toklas, Gertrude Stein’s life partner, wrote a cookbook that became a counterculture phenomenon and introduced America to hashish fudge. Lichine was an oenophile who made wine accessible to Americans. Fisher connected feelings to food through her writings, and Olney was an authority on the way the French plan a menu and treat dining experience as a work of art. Lastly, Julia Child vaulted to fame through her American TV cooking shows and seminal cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking that brought an appreciation of French food into the homes of millions of Americans. NPR interviews Spring on his new book that examines the lives and legacy of these foodies and the resonance of their writings in the American culinary scene today.
Read (and listen) more at NPR.