May 28, 2015

"Found Meals of the Lost Generation"

Sometimes you start reading a book and you realize right away that it is something very special and you should really slow down and savor every chapter.  This just happened to me with a charming little volume that combines three of my very favorite topics - food, Paris, and the Roaring Twenties.

Intrigued by the title, "Found Meals of the Lost Generation:  Recipes and Anecdotes from 1920s Paris", and looking for something light but not fluffy, I opened the front cover and then found myself gobbling it up far too quickly.

Well researched and engagingly written by Suzanne Rodriguez-Hunter, the book brings to life the personalities of the expat community through thirty short chapters each featuring an event and a memorable meal.

Like, for example, the 1925 road trip taken from Paris to Lyon by two of the greatest writers of our time - F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.  It was early in their relationship when Fitzgerald's literary star was shining brightly and Hemingway's was yet to rise.  Fitzgerald was known as a prodigious partier while Hemingway was struggling to make a name for himself and support his wife and child when Fitzgerald suggested they take the train together to Lyon to pick up a car that his wife, Zelda, had left behind.  The trip was bedeviled from the start but the two shared a meal of Escargots à la Bourguignon and a Sautéed Chicken with Morels that was not so much memorable for the food but for the fact that Mr. Fitzgerald passed out at the table with his head on his hands!

Sometimes the event was not a unique experience but a regular occurrence like the salons hosted by Gertrude Stein in her apartment at 27, rue de Fleurus.  Attended by the who's who of the artistic and literary communities, these salons were a chance to mix and mingle while enjoying Lapsang Souchong Tea, Black Currant Liquor and a selection of Alice B. Toklas' cookies and sweets - recipes for which are at the end of the chapter!

Clearly an aficionado of the Jazz Age (and good food), Ms. Rodriguez-Hunter celebrates the vitality of the era and some of its key figures who had flocked to Paris seeking fame, artistic stimulation, personal freedom and a good time.  The so-called "Lost Generation" including Josephine Baker, Sylvia Beach, Cole Porter, Gerald & Sara Murphy and Man Ray to name just a few, rebelled against the past and embraced Modernity with a vengeance.  Painters, writers, dancers, journalists, singers, poets, socialites and wannabes lived it up in 1920s Paris and we can almost imagine ourselves in the thick of the action, eating and drinking with some of the greatest legends of the 20th century!

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