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Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The…

Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The Peregrinations of an Epicure

by Joseph Wechsberg

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It's hard to find good food writing about Central Europe. Joseph Wechsberg is one of the few people who has cared and taken the time to write about it. The essays about France are fine too but much better travelled territory; what makes this book interesting is the little-known tales about greedy commanders in the Czech army and pastry shops in Prague and the love of sausage. ( )
2 vote SarahEHWilson | Dec 30, 2010 |
This was a lively and entertaining look at two worlds that no longer exist, from the perspective of food and gourmet meals.

The first part, which I found more enjoyable, shows Wechsberg's childhood in Moravia (a Czech-speaking part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) before and in the years after the first world war, and his life as a young man in Prague, Paris, and Vienna and as a traveling musician on ocean liners in the 1920s. This part was inherently more interesting for me, partly because I've read a lot of central European fiction more or less from this time period or slightly earlier, and also told more of a story. Also, there were lots of fascinating tidbits, like the 20 or so different cuts of boiled beef in Vienna, and the exploits of the women who frequented Maxim's in Paris in the 1890s.

The second part, which reads more like a collection of magazine articles (and probably was, since some of the chapters were published in a variety of US magazines) takes the reader on trips to French restaurants, truffle-gathering communities, and wine chateaus in the early 1950s. I found this moderately interesting in itself and as a portrait of a a way of life that, 50+ years later, seems almost as remote to us as the last days of the Austro-Hungarian empire must have seemed to Wechsberg when he wrote this book in 1953.

One of the most remarkable things about this book is Wechsberg's wonderful, lively, and humorous writing, because English is at least his fourth language (after Czech, German, and French) and he only learned it on coming to the US in 1938.
5 vote rebeccanyc | Sep 19, 2010 |
3rd prtg. 1st pub 1953.
  kitchengardenbooks | May 2, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0897331346, Paperback)

There were, and still are, great restaurants all over Europe, but the greater part of Blue Trout and Black Truffles is devoted to the eating-places and vineyards of France. It is a vicarious experience less enjoyable only than the real thing to read in the pages of this book of the culinary wonders of the notable establishments that have become the last epicurean haven in this materialistic, mechanized world of fast-food chains and frozen-food dinners.

Mr. Wechsberg practiced the art of dining and wining in the greatest of Europe's gastronomic sancta sanctora and proved himself a master. He reaches back to the twilight days of the Habsburg monarchy, when those splendid monuments to the haute cuisine in central Europe, Meissl and Schadn of Vienna and Gundel's of Budapest, were in their prime. At Meissl and Schadn twenty-four varieties of boiled beef could be ordered, and in Vienna a person who couldn't talk learnedly about at least a dozen different cuts of boiled beef was "beyond the pale"-no matter what titles had been conferred on him by the Kaiser.

Almost every chapter in this heart-and-stomach-warming book takes the reader to a place that is worth a special journey-a place where he can savor the great art of graceful living.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:59 -0400)

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