Chocolate FrenchEdited by Andre K. Crump
TCB-Café Publishing, 2003
190 pages, soft cover. $19.95
Quirky but appealing, “Chocolate French” is part cookbook, part travel book. And it’s all paean to the charms of chocolate.
Filled with reminiscences and personal observations of chefs, celebrities and chocolate fans, “Chocolate French” isn’t X-rated, but it’s for adults, not children. The subject is sweet, but not simple.
English-speakers who’ve traveled in France or those with a background of school-days French language study will enjoy the observations written first in French (and generally translated to English). “Prenez du chocolat afin que les plus méchantes compagnies vous paraissent bonnes.” from a Marquise de Sévigné letter to her daughter in 1672, seems to be advice both loving and practical. (“Take chocolate, so that the most unpleasant company seems good to you.”)
And the observation of Brillat-Savarin, “Les personnes qui boivent régulièrement du chocolat se distinguent par leur bonne santé et leur résistance à toutes sortes de maladies mineures qui troublent la sérénité de la vie.” is comforting to a current generation constantly being told that anything that tastes or feels good probably shouldn’t be indulged in. (“People who regularly drink chocolate are distinguished by their good health and their resistance to all sorts of minor illnesses that disturb the serenity of life.”)
There are 52 recipes—a cooking adventure for every week of the year. Some are from France, but most are the submissions of American-based chefs, some of French heritage, others not. They’re all presented in English and ingredient quantities are American/English measured, rather than metric.
Many black and white pictures are included. They seem to evoke a mood, rather than illustrate literality. Some, like the aerial view of the Port in Monte Carlo or the jazz band in Nice, appear to have no direct relationship to the topic. Others, such as the shot of the shopfront of chocolatier Debauve & Gallais in Paris, are obvious in their relevancy. Some will appreciate the two pictures of a young Brigitte Bardot, regardless of their attention to the little four-lines of translated poetry linking her with the subject.
Those with general culinary interest will find Chocolate French worthwhile, as will those who enjoy a vicarious trip to that Gallic country. For the many with a more specific obsession for chocolate, the book is a must. As Miranda Ingram is quoted as saying, “Ne croyez pas que le chocolat soit un substitut à l’amour . . . L’amour est un substitut au chocolat.” (“Don’t believe that chocolate is a substitute for love . . . Love is a substitute for chocolate.”)
--reviewed by Dan Clarke