In Luke Barr's Provence, 1970 a Key Moment for New American Cooking

Clarkson Potter

Publishers love to send us cookbooks here at Fork in the Road, and often those books come straight from the chefs at some of New York's best restaurants. So we decided to share the love, and each week, we'll feature a new book, a recipe, and a few thoughts on cooking from the authors. Check back every Tuesday for a new book.

Provence, 1970
By Luke Barr, 320 pages, Clarkson Potter

Sometimes, the stars align to bring an extraordinary group of people to a specific place at a specific moment. In Paris in the 1920s, the Lost Generation. New York in the 1940s, the Abstract Expressionists and the birth of Be-bop. Then the Beats in the 1950s, and so on. In the winter of 1970, happenstance found Julia Child, James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, Simone Beck, and several other leading gastronomes in the south of France at a moment when American ideas about fine food and cooking were changing, reacting to and absorbing the free-flowing, liberal ideas that seized the nation during the 1960s.

Food was becoming less formal, and notably, less French, and this was shaking the foundations of American cookery, which had long held French cuisine as the benchmark of eating well. Few felt this change more poignantly or internally than Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher, an early and prominent food writer and author who had, prior to this moment, looked at French food with great adulation.

Luke Barr, an editor at Travel & Leisure, is Fisher's great nephew. His new book Provence, 1970 (October, 2013) tells the story of this moment in Provence, of dinner parties at the Childs' and Becks', of friendship and drama and rivalry and the splintering and coalescing of the America's leading food thinkers in a place that at once fed them, and which they were fast moving away from.

On the next page, we chat with Barr about clay pot cooking, Julia Child's humor, and great dinner parties.

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