moorehype books

Cassoulet Confessions: Food, France, Family and the Stew That Saved My Soul Sylvie Bigar. Hardie Grant, $24.99 (154p) ISBN 978-1-74379-796-9

“A few days of solo travel through France with a delicious purpose” occasions self-discovery in this enticing debut from Swiss French travel writer Bigar. Despite her privileged Swiss upbringing in the 1970s, dysfunctional family dinners in their Geneva home loomed large, served by a Spanish butler in a dining room that, Bigar recalls, “felt as convivial as a pretty morgue.” By the time she had two children of her own in the 2000s, Bigar longed for an escape from her life in New York City to write about the “unsung cooks, forgotten spices, and secret culinary traditions” she’d reported on over the years. That desire manifested in a writing assignment in 2008 that took Bigar to the Southern French region of Occitanie, home of the cassoulet, a “slow-cooked carnivorous orgy of pork, lamb, duck, beans, and herbs.” As Bigar recalls the details of her trip in mouthwatering descriptions, she writes of having lunch with the “Pope of Cassoulet,” French chef Eric Garcia—who teaches her his secrets to making the dish from scratch (the recipe for which is included)—while steeping readers in a rich history of the stew alongside a personal investigation into her fraught family history and love affair with food. This bittersweet guide is as satisfying as it is soulful. (Sept.)