A Year in Provence – Peter Mayle (and Lentil Soup Recipe)

Posted 19 March, 2009 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 23 Comments

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Title: A Year in Provence
Author: Peter Mayle
Date Finished: March 16, 2009 #13
Published: 1989 Pages: 207
Rating: 3/5

The way that my f2f book club works is that each member is responsible for their own month–picking the book and setting up the meeting. This has worked great so far and we’ve had a really diverse selection of reads. After the initial horrible book club pick for March, the “hostess” quickly chose another book for us to read. I think this book was on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, or in other words bland.

Peter Mayle and his wife (whose name isn’t mentioned that I can remember!) pick up one day from deary England and move to Provence. A Year in Provence is just that–their first year in Provence. This travelogue, though, isn’t as much about their experiences as expatriates, but rather a look at the Provincial culture. Lots and lots and lots about food. Lots about the work ethic of those who help renovate their house, work that takes the entire year. Lots about different events and festivals that occur in Provence. Lots about the tourists that travel to Provence and create headache for the natives.

I think I would have liked this book better if it contained more of a personal account. Very little is said about Peter and his wife such as why they moved to Provence, what they did in England before the move, how they adjusted to the new lifestyle. The book did make me very hungry, though! It is very light reading, but not very exciting either. Like I said before, bland. We did have lots of yummy bread and brie at the meeting, though! That definitely left me much more satisfied than the book did.

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Lentil Soup (from Betty Crocker)
This book made me crave food so badly, that I decided to make homemade soup for the first time in years (with fresh bread of course).

3 slices bacon, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced (about ¾ cup)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
4 cups water
12 ounces dried lentils (about 2 cups)
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 Tbsp. snipped parsley
1 Tbsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
¼ to ½ tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes
1 cup water

Fry bacon in dutch oven until crisp; drain on paper towel. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic to bacon fat; cook and stir over medium heat until celery is tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in bacon, 4 cups water, the lentils, bouillon cube, parsley, salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf. Heat to boiling; reduce heat.

Cover and simmer until soup thickens, about 1 hour. Stir in tomatoes (with liquid) and 1 cup water (may need more water if too thick). Simmer uncovered 15 minutes.

Serves 6 (1 ½ cup servings).

23 Responses to “A Year in Provence – Peter Mayle (and Lentil Soup Recipe)”

  1. After reading your views I don’t think this book is for me either. I agree with you that it’d be much more interesting if it was written on a personal account.

    I love reading books about places and food. I’m currently reading The School of Essential Ingredients (after all the raves by fellow bookbloggers) and I really enjoy reading it. It definitely makes me hungry whenever I read it, LOL.

  2. I definitely didn’t think it was bland, but it would have been nice for more personal tidbits. But–it is a travel book, not a novel, so to me it worked! (though I’m the only one who thought so :) )

    I just got back from running and got your message about the RAT!! Yay and bad at the same time. Of all the weekends I have with no plans…I have something going on that weekend. I’m going to have to see what I can do though! :)

    One more thing…I realized what you meant by 2 down, 58 to go a little late. I thought you were talking about the declutter thing at first…silly me!

  3. Interesting! I think I’ll probably still read this one, but I appreciate that you’ve prepared me for it to be not as good as I previously thought it would be! (Does that comment make any grammatical sense?)

  4. *Melody – Don’t get me wrong–it is a very pleasant book, just not very exciting. This book made me so hungry that I HAD to make soup from scratch and buy some nice French bread. :) I’ve heard great things abut The School of Essential Ingredients.

    *Bermuda – I’m glad you liked it! Where in France did you live? I’ve visisted Paris but would love to travel further south next visit.

    *Charley – I think this would make a much better movie!! I didn’t realize there was a series, but I’ll have to see if I can check it out.

    *Laura – I know, I know–and the book wasn’t bad, just not my favorite. I wondered if the RAT would fall on the weekend that you’re going to A’s ranch. And no decluttering for me last night. Tried to make a list and only got 4 possible decluttering things. :(

    *Swapna – I think the general concensus in our meeting was that it was a pleasant book, just not a very exciting one. There isn’t really a plot thread or character development (although there are a few very colorful neighbors, which was fun!).

  5. Definitely doesn’t sound like a book for me. But hey, good food at book club, and a motivation to make homemade soup…it wasn’t a complete waste of time, huh?

  6. I think the book may be more interesting if it was more of the colonial times. What time era is it set in? That soup sounds delicious! I will have to try it out!

  7. *Samantha – There is a ton about food in this book–yummy delicious french food! This soup is really good for a really chilly day.

    *Nicole – Definitely a lot about food in this one. It’s an easy weekend read–or vacation read!

    *Debi – We usually meet after work at a restaurant, but this time we met in a conference room at lunch (it is a work book club)–the brie definitely made the meeting! :)

    *Michelle – It is a travelogue, so I guess just before he wrote the book–mid 80s? The soup is really really yummy–my mom made it all the time growing up. And except cutting up the veggies, it is really easy.

  8. The soup sounds yummy! I’ve got an older Betty Crocker cookbook (1981-ish); I’ll have to look and see if the same recipe is in mine. I think I see lentil soup and hot fresh bread in my near future.

    I got your message about book trade. I’d gladly do it if I owned the book. It is one of my rare library book check outs.

    Can’t wait to see what you think of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. The topic sounds interesting.

  9. cj

    So, now you’ve made me hungry with your soup and I’m at work without a thing to eat in sight!

    I’ve given you an award, so please stop by and pick it up, okay?

    cjh

  10. Hi Trish, I found your interview with Natasha/Maw Books and had to check your wonderful blog out.

    I am trying to manage two identical book-blogs, one in Danish and one in English, but given the much larger audience, I seem to have most visitors to my English one. I live in Copenhagen, Denmark and am trying hard to finish an MA in Egyptology at University of Copenhagen. Between doing that and working part time in marketing and written communications, I also write travelguides, read a lot and try not to get too stressed. At the moment I mainly read contemporary lit with a thriller thrown in now and then, but I basically read anything and do not shy away from any genre at all, although there are some I like better than others, of course.

    I am looking forward to get to know you.

    Louise

  11. *Terri – I bet we have the same book! I loved my mom’s copy so much growing up that I searched at book sales until I found the same copy. :) I love it.

    *Dar – If you like soup, it is a good one–very hearty! It is a childhood favorite of mine.

    *Nymeth – I thought the book was a little on the dull side (just not enough about the characters for me to grow attached), but the soup is easy and yummy.

    *CJ – Haha! Just think–in a few weeks you’ll be so far into spring that you won’t even be craving stuff like soup anymore. Warm thoughts!! And thank you so much for the award–you’ve made my day!

    *Louise – So nice to meet you! I’m glad you popped over and told me a little about you as well. Egyptology sounds incredibly fascinating! In Dallas right now King Tut’s tomb contents are at one of the museums. I haven’t been down yet, but I really want to (sadly, no mummy, though–just artifacts).

  12. I this book a few years ago, and I wasn’t crazy about it either. It was the kind of book that I really, really wanted to like – but it just felt like it was missing something.

  13. Hi, thanks for stopping by my blog! I liked your review of this book. It’s on my TBR after reading a review of another blogger. After reading your own review, I suspect even more that I’ll like it. And maybe I’ll have something new to share with husband who’s a foodie and doesn’t read anything except cookbooks and foodbooks. :D Thanks!

  14. *Angie – I can see why people do like it–and it was an easy enough read. For me it was the human connection that was missing. Did I really need all that information about truffles? :)

    *Claire – I hope you like this one. I think I was in the minority of not loving it for our book club. Everyone else seemed to really enjoy it. It is a great foodie book–will make you hungry! Have you read anything by Ruth Reichl? Another great foodie writer (with actual recipes!).

  15. I loved this book. I’m an expat American living in rural New Zealand, where my partner and I have finally stopped globetrotting and settled down on 20 acres and an olive grove. We feel like we’ve found our own little paradise, the way Peter Mayle found his Provence. I blog about our paradise over at ‘Moon Over Martinborough’ here: http://martinborough.wordpress.com/

  16. *Jared – What a wonderful experience to be able to travel the world and settle down in a place you consider paradise. I’ve never visisted New Zealand, but I’d love to one day.