Books, not which afford us a cowering enjoyment, but in which each thought is of unusual daring; such as an idle man cannot read, and a timid one would not be entertained by, which even make us dangerous to existing institution—such I call good books. - Henry David Thoreau
Monday, December 13, 2010
A Holiday Interlude: Immoveable Feast, A Paris Christmas by John Baxter
Cookies, anyone? They're fresh out of the oven. How about some egg nog? We're flavoring it with Ron Zacapa, which our wife assures us is the finest rum in the world. When you're settled in, please pull a chair up to the fire. All set? Good.
We bring you a bit of a holiday treat today, that being our brief review of Immoveable Feast, A Paris Christmas by John Baxter. Now, we here at TLM love Christmas--and we love Paris--and we would love to spend Christmas in Paris. But to say that we love Immoveable Feast is probably going a bit too far. Not that it's an unenjoyable work--in fact, we quite enjoyed it--but we found it difficult to find substance in a series of essays about yet another foreigner bumbling his way through the field of French haute cuisine after reading Joyce and Melville for the last two months. And now we can't believe that we just wrote that--seriously, have you ever read a more pretentious statement? And at Christmas too. Shame on us. If anyone deserves coal this Christmas, it's us. Maybe we should stop writing in the third person ...
Let's start this again. Immoveable Feast is the year-long story of Australian author John Baxter as he scours the French countryside to prove his culinary self-worth to his French wife's traditional family by cooking them a traditional French Christmas feast. I enjoyed the book at a very superficial level, which is where it deserves to be examined. Like my grandmother's sprinkled, tree-shaped Christmas cookies, Immoveable Feast is light and sugary and completely devoid of nutritious substance. And just like a nice round Christmas fruit cake, Immoveable Feast is the type of book that, if you don't pick it up during the holiday season, is destined to sit--increasingly brick-like and forgotten--in the back of your cupboards until it sparks to life and consumes you you get around to throwing it out.
But if you do pick up Immoveable Feast during the holidays, like that cute family that makes the rounds singing Christmas carols every year, you will very likely enjoy it for at least an hour or two before it begins to grate on you. Seriously, though, the prose is light and easy, the humor plentiful, and the book is strewn with illustrations that give it an added Christmas appeal. And the descriptions of the touch, taste, and smell of traditional French Christmas dishes, as well as their ingredients, are genuinely mouth-watering. All kidding aside, I did enjoy it and I do recommend it.
So, what are your Christmas (or holiday) favorites? An extra cookie for anyone that comments without mentioning Dickens.
Patrick (at The Literate Man)