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My French Kitchen    by Joanne Harris & Fran Warde order for
My French Kitchen
by Joanne Harris
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2003 (2003)

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The urge to hold and leaf through My French Kitchen overwhelmed me. Luscious photos of simply wonderful foods are interspersed with tiny photo vignettes of France (love the cow in the introduction.) An absolutely beautiful book. Joanne Harris is one of my favorite novelists, author of Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, and her recent Coastliners. Her new novel Holy Fools is forthcoming. Can't wait. Fran Warde, her collaborator is a chef and the author of three cookbooks

Harris says, 'My French Kitchen is a kind of family album, in which every recipe paints a picture as well as, I hope, an introduction to some of the regional flavors of France.' This woman loves food; 'Food is a sensual, whole-body experience: look at what you are cooking, smell the ingredients, mix them with your fingers. Enjoy their sounds and textures. Bear in mind that cooking is about as close to magic as modern society allows ...' Wouldn't you just love to be in her kitchen to watch her pleasure as she transforms ingredients into the marvelous foods on the pages of this cookbook?

My French Kitchen starts off, as many cookbooks do, with Salads. But there any similarity ends. Warm Goat Cheese Salad sounds and looks divine, while White Bean and Tomato Salad brings the bounty of summer right to the plate. After the lovely selection of salads, the cookbook segues to Soups and Starters. Gascony Tomato Soup uses cherry tomatoes. There's Bean Soup with Pistou and Great-Aunt Simone's Garlic Soup (I mention just a few soups to tempt you.) As for Starters, I'd like to try the Blue Cheese Bake. The Pissaladerie uses both anchovies and olives, as does the Tapenade.

Fish rates its own section, and Poultry follows. Garlic Roast Chicken caught my eye. Must try it. Squab with Peas. Marvelous. Meat tempts us with recipes ranging from Veal Parcels in White Wine Sauce to Pork with Black Currant Sauce, Lamb Navarin, or Rabbit with Chesnut Puree. These are enough to tempt anyone, while the photographs can stand by themselves as art. Vegetables, an important part of my own diet, are magnificent. I can taste the Imbach Mushrooms on slices of baguette in my imagination, or Gratin Dauphinois -I love potato dishes, to which my figure can attest. Roasted Asparagus Spears. Divine.

The two-page spread photo of a fruit and vegetable stand made me want to book a flight to France immediately. I could not pick out any one or two desserts that I wanted to spotlight. They are all beautiful and appetizing enough to make the taste buds work overtime. Ditto with the section on Chocolate. My French Kitchen is a wonderful cookbook, enhanced by Joanne Harris's memories of each recipe. She gives us a look into her life as a child, learning the process of cooking that brought us this treasure.

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