08-10-13

Jonathan Grimwood: The Last Banquet

Brocciu di Donna

Take two pints of whey made from an equal mixture of ewe and breast milk and heat until hand-hot in a ceramic pot over a steady heat. (I've never produced satisfactory results, certainly nothing that equals the brocciu di Donna from Corsica using breast milk alone.) Add three teaspoons of salt and two-thirds of a pint of fresh breast-milk and two thirds of a pint of fresh exe's milk. Heat to just below the simmering point without allowing the milk to catch on the side of the pan. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Lift the cheese from the whey and drain through muslin. The result should be ivory coloured. Tastes creamy, rich, almost silky.

 

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I read this book during my summer holidays and I devoured it. Since then it has been lying around in the house and I keep taking it up to reread passages and think about it, and that is a sign of a book that will stay with me for a while. I love that.

It tells the lifestory of the fictional character Jean-Marie d'Aumout, from 1723 when as an orphan from a noble but extremely poor family he is saved and send to military academy, to his death in 1790, eaten by his tame tiger with the sans culottes on the threshold of his chateau. In between he lives the life of a diplomat and a spy, in the political and social turmoil of the 18th century, but more important for the story, he tastes: all food he can find, women, and life.

The book is a beautiful mix of strange recipes, descriptions of food and friendships, and all this with the complex society of the period as a very interesting and fascinating background. Jean-Marie moves in high circles but sees the first signs of a society about to change, with the jacquerie of 1736, the Corsican fight for Independence and ultimately the French Revolution.

It is a lovely book for everybody who likes food, history or just a well written story.

To be read with a Sauternes.

 

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