Book review: One More Croissant for the Road by Felicity Cloake
ONE MORE CROISSANT FOR THE ROAD by Felicity Cloake. HarperCollinsUK. 2019 release.
As if the title wasn’t one big pull in itself, this witty travelogue features one famous and popular French recipe at the close of every chapter. The omelette soufflé, ratatouille, clafoutis, quiche Lorraine, madeleines, they are all in here. Which led to my trying them (all bar the croissant, that one was a bit ambitious for me), one by one. Which is why I took a long time to finish reading this delicious book.
Felicity Cloake, food-writer, author of six cookbooks and winner of the Guild of Food Writers award for Food Journalist of the Year, invests in a sturdy bike she promptly names Eddy, and tools around France on it, traversing some 2,335 kms, cycling through places like Saint-Malo, Redon, Limoges, Bayonne, Carcassone, Marseille, Nice, Lyon, Dijon, Nancy, Toul, Reims, finally coming to a triumphant halt at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
She cycles up steep hills, coasts down rain-soaked valleys (the rain is her constant companion) eats and rates croissants at every stop she makes (rarely hitting the jackpot when it comes to the perfect croissant) gets almost blown off the clifftop on the Route des Cretes, the highest sea cliffs in France, suffers Google maps wilfully misguiding her, and enjoys/endures many other such adventures.
Two-wheeled travel offers pleasures, Cloake avers, like coming up close and personal with big-eyed cows, stopping to gaze at hot-air balloons, coming upon a quiet Great War graveyard, riding through green forests, scoffing food anywhere and everywhere, pedalling past sleepy cottages, banks of tall rhododendrons in full flower, placid lakes, chateaus, past endless roadworks, past a sign warning the resident dog is en psychoanalyse!
She`s not alone all the time, friends join her on and off, on short stretches of the tour. There are informative and entertaining Pause-Café essays interspersed through the book where Cloake talks of subjects as diverse as cycling, croissants, French trains, the origins of the Tarte Tatin, chocolat, bread, the French a la carte menu, couscous, French mustard, the coffee break, etc.
She goes easy on the traditional English-French snark, though we do get to marvel at the way French eateries are almost always closed at any time of the day or evening, for one vague reason or the other. Ditto their local museums. We chuckle over a sign that `all rats on the premises have passed a hygiene inspection;` another that boasts about hams in the Basque Country being aged in such a way so as to `develop their personality,` as also how many locals she meets are politely dismissive of British food and attitudes.
At some point during the journey, she states that she`d hoped to feel like Paddy Leigh Fermor (the late great author/scholar/soldier/world traveller Patrick Leigh Fermor) but instead, she just felt like herself… in a bad mood.
That’s as may be but mon Dieu, she sure has given us this wonderful account of a culinary pilgrimage to read and wonderful recipes to try out. I`ll hie me to the kitchen now, to try a tartiflette.