Susan Herrmann Loomis's newest book, ON RUE TATIN, brings the wonder of a child and the fresh eyes of a tourist to the French village of Louviers. The author and her family live in a self-renovated medieval convent, and as with other genre-mates like UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN, ON RUE TATIN is a billet-doux to simple living in a European town. This fascinating volume, filled with the quirkiness that only small town folks going about their daily rituals can exemplify, is a delight.
The charity and generosity of the townspeople is highlighted by Loomis's conversational style. It's as if you are sitting in the kitchen of her ancient home cum cooking school enjoying coffee as she recounts her history. The inevitable cultural missteps, too, illuminate the differences and similarities of us all. The florists across the street can't understand why Loomis balks at them for using her garden as a storage area and only baked goods can save the day. A battle with the parish priest over his use of the Loomis's adjacent garden as his private parkway can't be solved with baked goods, though --- only by stick-to-itiveness and the will to outlast the priest's tenure. By the end of Loomis's recounting of her search for the perfect stove, you'll be as ready to throw up your hands and cook over an open fire as were Loomis and her husband!
Subtitled Living and Cooking in a French Town, the memoir reveals the ageless tasks of food preparation, which have changed little in France over the years. Over 50 sumptuous recipes are included in the pages, ranging from braised chicken with white wine and mustard to yogurt cake. Most of the simple recipes are from Loomis's neighbors and friends in France. The focus on seasonal ingredients and typical area seasonings has made a few dishes favorites in my house already. Unfortunately, because there is no index and the recipes are sprinkled into the chapters, the reader must search for each one, a sometimes frustrating task. A few ingredients need explanation, and the search for other ingredients will require either a fantastically well-stocked grocery store or use of the Internet to find.
The American oddity of corn on the cob and the debate over fresh vs. shelf-stable milk each brings home the universal cultural quirks that make traveling the pleasure it is. But not all things French are beloved in this memoir. Loomis's experience with French dental care leads her to find an American doctor, and her family's preference for fresh milk results in an arrangement with her local grocer to hold gallons of milk for them from the once weekly delivery. After all, because milk is only delivered once a week, you'll go without if you don't get there early!
Loomis's love affair with France began after entering a Parisian cooking school and then becoming Patricia Wells's assistant. Wells, a noted food writer living in Paris, recognized Loomis's writing abilities and showed her how the love for cooking and writing could be combined into a successful career. Loomis, author of six cookbooks including FARMHOUSE COOKBOOK and THE GREAT AMERICAN SEAFOOD COOKBOOK, writes, lectures and conducts cooking classes from her home at 1, Rue Tatin. Fans of UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN and A YEAR IN PROVENCE will enjoy the latest take on small town European life. Susan Loomis's anecdotes, sense of place, and recipes are worth the $24.00 hardcover price.
Reviewed by Kelly Koepke on April 10, 2001