On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town

Susan Herrmann Loomis

Published by Broadway Books, 2002
ISBN 10: 0767904559 / ISBN 13: 9780767904551
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Synopsis: Susan Loomis arrived in Paris twenty years ago with little more than a student loan and the contents of a suitcase to sustain her. But what
began then as an apprenticeship at La Varenne École de Cuisine evolved into a lifelong immersion in French cuisine and culture, culminating in permanent residency in 1994. On Rue Tatin chronicles her journey to an ancient little street in Louviers, one of Normandy’s most picturesque towns.

With lyrical prose and wry candor, Loomis recalls the miraculous restoration that she and her husband performed on the dilapidated convent they chose for their new residence. As its ochre and azure floor tiles emerged, challenges outside the dwelling mounted. From squatters to a surly priest next door, along with a close-knit community wary of outsiders, Loomis tackled the social challenges head-on, through persistent dialogue–and baking.

On Rue Tatin includes delicious recipes that evoke the essence of this region, such as Apple and Thyme Tart, Duck Breast with Cider, and Braised Chicken in White Wine and Mustard. Transporting readers to a world where tradition is cherished, On Rue Tatin provides a touching glimpse of the camaraderie, exquisite food, and simple pleasures of daily life in a truly glorious corner of Normandy.

Review: It has been said that food defines a culture. For the French, food is an integral part of their coveted tradition, and Susan Herrmann Loomis's new book On Rue Tatin embraces both. As a young, recent American college graduate, Loomis left the U.S. for France to attend one of the oldest French cooking schools, La Varenne. Her intent was to immerse herself in French cooking with the aspiration of becoming a food critic. Working as the French equivalent of an apprentice, she quickly became intimate with the ways and traditions that define the French culture, specifically its cuisine. On Rue Tatin ("On Tatin Street") is a descriptive narrative of Loomis's first several years in France, her encounters with the local people, and the bonds she formed, as well as recipes she gathered during her time there.

Following her formal culinary training, Loomis returned to the U.S. and met the man who would become her husband. After the couple's first son turned 2, they moved to France where Loomis was determined to launch her writing career focusing on unique aspects of French farming cuisine. She and her husband eventually purchased an old monastery in Louviers in the Normandy region of France. One of the more humorous and memorable stories she shares concerns the landlord of the small rental that they occupied for a year while her husband remodeled the monastery to livable conditions. During that year, the wife of the landlord believed them to be CIA agents and chose to keep a cold distance from the family. Meanwhile the French police suspected them of dealing drugs.

Every recipe featured throughout this memoir comes with an interesting, anecdotal story, and is very much representative of traditional French cuisine. Gateau au Chocolat de Mamy (or Mamy Jacqueline's Chocolate Cake) is a dense, almost death-by-chocolate confection, but served alone or with a fresh fruit coulis, it will bring a smile, as will the sweet explanation of its origin.

Loomis describes experiences and people with much detail, sometimes several times over, and her prose allows the reader to imagine the tempting smells and vivid colors of the countryside. You may find yourself wishing to see pictures of Loomis's home and the quaint village where she lived, but perhaps that was Loomis's intent--she wants to tempt and challenge you to experience the beauty and foods of Louviers and the Normandy region for yourself. --Teresa Simanton

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Title: On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French...
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publication Date: 2002
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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