The Two Spoons Cookbook - More Than 100 French Inspired Vegan Recipes
Hannah Sunderani, Penguin Canada €24.87, ISBN: 978-0735241282
French cuisine is still deliciously anchored to a carnivorous tradition, but vegetarian, flexitarian and even vegan diets are increasing in popularity.
The advantages include being more health conscious as well as watching the family budget. But how to enjoy those advantages without sacrificing the indulgence of French cuisine?
This cookbook goes a long way to finding the answer. The title refers to the author's preference for food that has to be served with two spoons because it's made for sharing.
Her recipes cover croissants, cashew cream cheese, turmeric latte, “freakshakes”, mushroom bourguignon, rainbow ratatouille, and “fauxmages”.
“Fauxmages”? Vegan cheeses. The recipes cover everything from snacks to a formal dinner and are designed to be simple to make.
The recipes are organised from breakfast onwards and the author promises dishes that are delicious, decadent and beautifully presented.
It offers an easy introduction to anyone wanting to explore plant-based recipes, whether exclusively or as part of a varied, balanced diet.
The book grew out of a blog called Two Spoons which the author started when she was living in Lille.
She says it's not for advanced cooks, but for home-makers looking to expand their repertoires, and includes some dishes with their roots in North Africa.
She includes oat and almond milk in case you can't find it in the supermarket.
The design is clear and bright with beautiful illustrations which make you want to crack out the scales and get going on recipes for banana pancakes and dairy free hot chocolate.
Dressing Up -The Women Who Influenced French Fashion
Elizabeth L Block, MIT Press, €24.84, ISBN: 978-0262045841
There Is an awful lot of guff printed about French fashion; replace your bag with a raffia shopping tote and your heels with ballerina flats, etc.
But this book is different.
It's a scholarly study by a real historian of the influence wielded by wealthy American women in the Parisian fashion houses during the 19th century.
Far from being simple consumers of French chic, their financial clout and fresh approach to the serious business of fashion made them partners in the creative process.
The author notes how plenty of customers were accomplished needlewomen themselves, with a good understanding and appreciation of the techniques of cutting and making, as well as the characteristics and qualities of various fabrics and finishings.
They absorbed French ideas and took them back to the States, just as the French were influenced by their creative ideas.
The author also looks at the links between French couture and coiffure at the time, as well as shopping habits.
Unlike their European counterparts, rich American women were perfectly happy to patronise department stores as well as designers like Charles Frederick Worth, Doucet and Félix.
She also looks at how the middle classes copied fashions worn by the rich.
The book is illustrated with plenty of full colour plates and it's particularly interesting to see pictures of the gowns on dummies and then as styled and worn by the social leaders and trend-setters of the era.
Just add a mink…
Summer At the French Café
Sue Moorcroft, Avon, €0.99 on Kindle ISBN: B09JBL9X3L
Released earlier this year, to the delight of Sue Moorcroft's fans, Summer at the French Café is a romance set in Alsace.
The heroine, Kat Jenson, starts off with a perfect life.
She has a wonderful boyfriend, works in a book café, has a cute pooch, and lives in a fab part of France.
The problems loom when she discovers her man has unsuspected feet of clay, things go wrong at work and her family run into heartache.
But then she meets Noah and it starts to seem like the storm clouds might have a silver lining.
Except for just a tiny glitch. Noah has problems of his own, and he's only in Alsace for the summer.
He plans to return to Dordogne, and what will Kat do then?
Of course, this is a romance so it has a wonderful happy ending and it's set in France during the summer, so there are plenty of evocative descriptions to carry the reader into a sun-drenched world.
But it has its darker moments which keep you gripped to the pages. The perfect escapist read, this is a book to enjoy in one big gulp.
You can find more literary inspiration at the Facebook group 'Novels set in France'.