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Cooking for Claudine


When writer, journalist and film-maker John Baxter moved to France after the coup de foudre (thunderclap) of true love hit him many years ago, in addition to his delightful film-maker wife Marie-Dominique (Marie-Do, as he charmingly refers to her in the book) he inherited her family .. and, the task of presenting Christmas lunch for the entire extended family.

While this could have been a catastrophe, Baxter is obviously a talented and creative cook whose appreciation of fine produce and how it should be treated to bring out its best features is totally in line with the French attitude to food.

His Christmas lunches became legendary in the family and the witty, evocative story of how he sourced the components of just one such meal is salivating reading for anyone who enjoys food, France and fine dining.

Along the way he intersperses memories of other times in this magical country he has adopted as his own, along with anecdotes from his white bread-eating days (well, his father was a baker!) in mid-20th century Australia.

In Cooking for Claudine, Baxter provides the invitation all Francophiles covet: the opportunity to sit down at dinner with a venerable French family, to dine with them, and to enjoy Christmas the way they do. And the book also includes recipes for Baxter's Christmas lunch as well as Ten Commandments for those accepting an invitation to a French Christmas celebration.

In this rollicking read, along the way you'll meet Pascal, the pig, (no prizes for guessing his role), and traipse the countryside searching for oysters, pears, apples and more. All to impress Claudine and the rest of the family.

And who exactly is Claudine? None other than Baxter's redoubtable mother-in-law. Someone to please at all costs. The fact that the family reissued the invitation for him to feed them Christmas after Christmas shows that his cooking proved more than successful. Read this book and you'll understand why.

Cooking for Claudine, John Baxter, Allen & Unwin, May 2010, rrp $22.99.


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