Read this cookbook: “Provence to Pondicherry: Recipes From France and Faraway” by Tessa Kiros (Quadrille, $35)
By Wendell Brock
This book is like turning back the pages of time.
The leaves have a faded patina and even smell a little bit dusty. The photographs are authentic, beautiful and homespun, evoking the texture of place with a painterly eye.
Author Tessa Kiros was born in London to a Finnish mother and a Greek-Cypriot father. Her home is Tuscany now, but her muse is France.
“I am lucky that I live near enough to Provence to be able to drive there on a whim for an almond croissant, or bouillabaisse,” she writes of this region of olives and figs, brandade and daube de bouef.
She’ll circle back to France in a bit. But before she can return to Europe, she’ll ruminate on the Gallic diaspora, as manifested on the shores of Guadeloupe, Vietnam, Pondicherry and La Reunion.
In this glorious tapestry of zigzagging threads, Kiros wanders to faraway places rich in colonial history, kissed by palms trees, rice, spice and bright sunlight.
Her prose style is nonchalant and fancy free. Her recipes are the equivalent of secret, sensual discoveries. She’s a girl on a lark, taking the time to drink it all in.
From Vietnam, Kiros offers crispy duck with clementines and kumquats; morning glory and beef salad; iced coconut coffee. From Pondicherry, fish curry, potato dosa and rose milk kulfi. From Reunion, poulet au mangue (mango chicken); chutney de tamarin (tamarind chutney) and gateau de patate douce (sweet-potato cake).
I may not do a whole lot of cooking from this book. But I will read it languidly and leisurely, dreaming of the day I’ll zip about in my rented Citroen, on a quest for Normandy oysters; steak with pepper and Calvados; apple tart; and salted caramels. “Provence to Pondicherry” could make a travel agent very rich.
Wendell Brock is an Atlanta food and culture writer, frequent AJC contributor and winner of a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for journalism. Follow him on Twitter (@MrBrock) and Instagram (@WendellDavidBrock).