Books: Born to Eat Their Words

Some of the best cookbook authors discover regional tastes

More than 300 years ago, Racine wrote I that a province of southern France could support 20 caterers, while a bookseller would starve to death. Today the ratio is probably reversed, if only because, grâce à dieu, cookbooks have largely replaced caterers. More than a gastronomic manual or a compilation of recipes, a well-made cookbook blends strands of history, geography and philosophy with dollops of legend and even a dash of the unsavory. This is particularly true of regional cookbooks, which have come into their...

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