From Goodreads: Paris in the 1920s was alive with writers, artists, musicians, and dancers. It was here that Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, Man Ray, and Josephine Baker came to create and to congregate. And when they got together, it was often for a meal. In Found Meals of the Lost Generation, Suzanne Rodriguez-Hunter has brought thirty such gatherings to life: she describes the setting, the guest list, the conversation, and, of course, the food—providing recipes for every dish. Side dishes, desserts, and suggestions for the appropriate wines and liqueurs are also included. The result will delight lovers of cooking and literature alike, and make for some memorable meals.
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I found this little gem sitting on my book shelf a few weeks ago. Granted, it is small, but I don’t know how it got lost in plain sight. It was sheer coincidence that I noticed it, but I am so glad that it fell into my hands. It is the perfect end to Jazz Age January, hosted by Books Speak Volumes.
After reading The Paris Wife, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, and A Moveable Feast, I started to feel slightly depressed by all the self-destructive characters I met in these books. Found Meals was able to make me forget some of that. It put some of the glamour back into 1920’s Paris. While there’s still plenty of alcohol, the book is built around the food that the writers, painters, poets, actors, and musicians ate. Since I like to cook, I enjoyed both the anecdotes about the people and the recipes tied to them.
The book starts with a short introduction to the Lost Generation, explaining the historical background and the cultural change that the Twenties brought with them. It’s a good introduction to the book, even if you are already aware of the context. The first two decades of the twentieth century are covered by three “short stories.” After that, the book gives each year of the Twenties its own part. We get a brief, one-page overview of what is happening in the world (mostly the United States and Paris) in that particular year, and then there are several anecdotes involving one or more famous expatriates, followed by a recipe for a meal or an ingredient mentioned in the story. It is a good setup for the book.
If you read my review of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, you might remember that I enjoyed reading about his memory of walking around hungry in Paris and then eating potato salad and sausages. I was happy to discover that this book mentions this story and then presents a recipe for both the mustard sauce that accompanies the sausages and the dressing for the potato salad (using olive oil, not mayonnaise!). There is also a recipe for snails and chicken with mushrooms, based on the food Hemingway and Fitzgerald ate when they were picking up Scott’s car in Lyon—also described in Hemingway’s Feast. While I have no intention of cooking snails myself, I will try out the chicken recipe.
Since many of the people included in this book have been mentioned in the other books I read this January, I truly enjoyed meeting them again in a slightly different setting: Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach, John Dos Passos, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gerald and Sara Murphy. I was happy to also read about a few other people: Man Ray, Djuna Barnes, Cole Porter, Langston Hughes, and Josephine Baker. It was also fun to read about the food each person got associated with: tea and cookies for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, lobster for Josephine Baker, bouillabaisse for Zelda Fitzgerald.
The anecdotes are each only a few pages long, so they are perfect for perusing whenever there’s a little down time—or when you are trying to decide what to make for dinner. (One warning for the chef: the recipes are as close to the 1920’s version as possible, so ingredients and measurements are not listed separately and there is no mention of mixers, microwaves, etc. That might be a handicap if you don’t cook on a regular basis.)
All in all, I can only repeat that this was the perfect way for me to wrap up the Roaring Twenties. Thanks to Leah for organizing this event!