Tuesday, September 24, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: "FOUND MEALS OF THE LOST GENERATION - Recipes and Anecdotes from 1920's Paris" by Suzanne Rodriguez-Hunter

I just finished reading Found Meals of the Lost Generation - Recipes and Anecdotes from 1920s Paris by Suzanne Rodrigues-Hunter.  What a fun and fascinating book!!  This is a small book, and a very fast read.  I didn't want to put it down!

As the title suggests, this is a social history of American expats and the creative community of Paris in the early 1900s.  These are stories of the gatherings of Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein,  Isadora Duncan, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Cole Porter and many more, and include recipes of the foods they shared.  The book begins:

They rebelled against their parents, danced to loud and shocking music, were disillusioned by war, flirted with cocaine, pushed the boundaries of sexual freedom, cut their hair geometrically and colored it with henna, loved abstract art, joined cults, flew in airplanes in a world grown small, drove fast cars, pondered their subconscious motivations, rejected conformism, and a lot of them drank or drugged too much.

Well, perhaps things haven't changed all that much but, still, this is a good introduction!

The 1920's were interesting times, and the creative community in Paris took full advantage.  Gertrude Stein played an integral role in bringing these artists, writers, dancers and musicians together.  She began as a collector of the art being produced at the time.  She had little money, and the artists whose works she was purchasing were equally living on the edge.  In little time she amassed a collection of works by Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, and many others.  These artists became her friends, and her collection of their works became an attraction to be seen by hundreds of young painters, writers, collectors, journalists, and their friends.  After 1920, when Alice B. Toklas moved in with Gertrude Stein, these gatherings would be catered by Toklas who was known to be an extraordinary cook.  One recipe in the book, "Nameless Cookies," inspired me to buy Toklas' book, Aromas and Flavors of the Past and Present.  Here is the recipe.

Sift together 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 2 cups white flour.  Cream 1 cup butter and add the flour mixture slowly, little by little; this procedure, stirring rather than beating as flour is added, should take about 20 minutes.  At midway point, add 1 tablespoon curacao and 1 teaspoon brandy.  When mixture has been combined, roll the dough into small 'sausage' rolls about 2 inches long and 1/2 inch thick.  Place on lightly oiled cookie sheet 1 inch apart in preheated 275º oven; bake 20 minutes.  Remove gently with spatula, gently sifting powdered sugar over them while still hot.  Kept in tightly closed container, cookies will last up to 3 weeks.

Otherwise, the menus and recipes of those times are not unlike what would be found in Paris today.  One menu lists caviar with blinis and cream, fresh salmon steaks in cream, roast partridge, and raspberry pie with cream.  Many of the recipes use ingredients not typically found in American grocery stores.  The recipe for Jugged Hare begins "Cut a 5-pound rabbit or hare into pieces ...".   Although we do have an abundance of rabbits, they are more often found in our gardens than in our stores.

Because of the times, and because of who these people are, these stories are highly readable.  Without hesitation, I fully recommend this book!

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