Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Book Review: Loss of Gastronomic Virginity (a food memoir)

French Lessons by Peter Mayle

Last weekend I drove from Tucson to La Quinta (near Palm Springs). I hate driving. I really do. A zillion years ago I couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license, these days I wish I could afford to hire someone to drive me around in a town car.

Actually my eco-conscience wouldn’t allow me the luxury of a town car so make that a hybrid. Driving might be okay if there’s someone in the car to laugh and talk to but, alas, I made the journey alone to meet up with friends from Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Since the scenery is boring, I needed something to keep me awake and more so, alert and interested for six hours.

I settled on two audio books. One was French Lessons by Peter Mayle (a food memoir) and the other, Lake Wobegone, Summer 1956 by Garrison Keillor.

I started with French Lessons. The book was read by Simon Jones, a very formal Englishman. The book starts with an adolescent Mayle living in England and not knowing anything about good food.

Since the English are not known for their cuisine, Mayle has his first culinary awakening in a French restaurant as a teen. While trying to follow suit of a prim elder who orders fish and chips, Mayle succumbs to crusty French bread and sweet butter thus taking his first steps down the path of least resistance into the belly of French food.

At that point he talks about losing his gastronomic virginity and I sit erect as my ears are glued to his every word.

Gastronomic virginity is about as racy as it gets. The book errs on the side of super politeness, still a pleasant change from real life, or the air waves.

Mayle describes the food and wine in almost poetic detail. My cheese sticks, grapes, an box of Dots seemed like bird seed compared to his ravishing descriptions. Although my stomach growled along the way I was emotionally full from listening to his enjoyable gestation of rich cheeses, savory entrees, pompous wines, and the occasional sweet dessert.

Oh, I wish I could partake in his spa experience of the minceur de cuisine and pummeling water massages.

I have noted a website that sells all nine of his books and hope to enjoy all of them sooner or later.

Have you ever read Peter Mayle? If yes, please share your comments

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