The notion that the history of France unrolls at the table is not far-fetched, as this curious volume demonstrates. The landmark political and cultural events over about 2,000 years are often accompanied by food happenings, like the Romans’ planting vineyards in Gaul, Charlemagne’s reorganizing agriculture, the possibly mythic story of the siege of Castelnaudary by the Black Prince’s inspiring cassoulet, the invention of canned food to feed Napoleon’s armies or the true tale of the origin of the cheese brand La Vache qui rit (Laughing Cow) as an insult to the Germans in World War I. The book is at once serious and trivial.
“A Bite-Sized History of France: Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War and Enlightenment” by Stéphane Hénaut and Jeni Mitchell (The New Press, $26.99).
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