During the thirty-year boom in France following World War II—les Trente Glorieuses—Paris was not only the world’s most stylish tourist destination, it was also the world capital of gastronomic genius. In The Gourmands’ Way, Justin Spring tells the story of six American writer-adventurers having the time of their lives in the City of Light during this period and, in doing so, transforming the way Americans talk and think about food—and the way they eat.
The six are A. J. Liebling, Alice B. Toklas, M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, Alexis Lichine, and Richard Olney. The Gourmands’ Way is the first book ever to look at these unforgettable figures as a group. It is also the first to focus specifically on their Paris-based adventures. Liebling was a great war correspondent, reporter, and humorist who opens Spring’s narrative by sweeping into Paris with the French and Allied forces in August 1944; Toklas was Gertrude Stein’s life partner who reinvented herself at age seventy-five as a cookbook author; Fisher was a sensualist storyteller and fabulist; Child was a cookbook author, America’s greatest television food celebrity, and the reinventor of the dinner party; Lichine was an ambitious wine merchant who, through an astounding series of risk-taking ventures, became the leading importer of French wines in America; and Olney was a reclusive but freewheeling artist who reluctantly evolved into one of the foremost American writers on French cuisine and French wine.
Justin Spring focuses on the most joyful, exciting, formative, and dramatic moments of these six lives, many of which were intimately connected to the exploration and discovery of fine French food and drink—whether they experienced it at top Michelin-starred restaurants or straight from a hot plate in an artist’s garret. The Gourmands’ Way leads us through both the fabled world of haute cuisine and the vibrant bohemian and artistic haunts of the Left Bank during the 1950s. Intimate, anecdotal, and beautifully researched, The Gourmands’ Way is an eye-opening exploration of the rich, storied annals of mid-twentieth-century Franco-American culinary history.