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M. F. K. Fisher’s grandnephew tells the dramatic story of friendships and rivalries, when Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and other culinary icons gathered in Provence in 1970 and debated (and shaped) the future of food in America

Provence, 1970

M. F. K. Fisher’s grandnephew tells the dramatic story of friendships and rivalries, when Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and other culinary icons gathered in Provence in 1970 and debated (and shaped) the future of food in America

Provence, 1970

Luke Barr
  • Imprint: Clarkson Potter
  • On sale: October 22nd, 2013
  • Price: $26.00
  • Pages: 320
  • ISBN: 9780307718341
Contact: Erica Gelbard

In December of 1970, the seminal figures of modern American cooking—M. F. K. Fisher, Julia Child, Simone Beck, James Beard, Judith Jones, and Richard Olney—found themselves together in the South of France. The gathering happened more or less by accident, but at a crucial moment: American taste was changing. There was new, bohemian energy in the air, and their reactions to it, and to one another, would change the course of culinary history.

PROVENCE, 1970: M. F. K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste (Clarkson Potter/Publishers; on sale October 22, 2013; $26.00; Hardcover) by Luke Barr, grandnephew of M. F. K. Fisher, tells the story of that moment: a few weeks in the hills above the Cote d’Azur, weeks that were full of meals and conversations, arguments, and unspoken rivalries, when Fisher, Child, Beard, and other culinary icons gathered and debated—and shaped—the future of food in America.

Barr combines archival research, interviews, and never-before-revealed letters and journals of his great-aunt to re-create this pivotal moment in culinary history—including all of the gossip, heated conversations, and drama as these cooks and writers collaborated and clashed over the future of food. Would American cookery build on the traditions of classic French cuisine, or would it embrace new, international flavors? Would popular personalities such as Child and Beard prove more influential than rising chefs and critics such as Olney?

With his great-aunt as his guide, Barr takes us to the restaurants and kitchens where this group of friends and rivals discussed what we cook and eat and why, and confronted the limits of snobbery. Their conversations and experiences that year—as revealed in the journals and letters of Fisher, Child, Olney, Beard, and Beck, and the pages of the Childs’s “Black Book” (an astonishing binder of details about their home in France) —continue to drive our debates about food, cooking, and the culinary world, from “farm-to-table” restaurants and Michael Pollan to the White House organic vegetable garden and the Food Network. In PROVENCE, 1970, a new direction for American taste was born, and these were the players who made it possible.

About the Author:

LUKE BARR is an editor at Travel + Leisure magazine, where he has been on staff since 2003. A grandnephew of M. F. K. Fisher, he was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Switzerland, and graduated from Harvard. He lives is Brooklyn with his wife, architect Yumi Moriwaki, and their two daughters.




Praise for PROVENCE, 1970

“M. F. K. Fisher’s great-nephew Barr, a Travel + Leisure editor, uses considerable research to re-create a momentous convergence of preeminent American food writers in Provence in the fall of 1970 that determined not only the trajectory of their subsequent careers but the direction of American food culture as well. . . . Barr, a felicitous stylist, derives much of his account from Fisher’s journal of the time, when she was in her early sixties, living a solitary existence between California and France, and trying to settle on her next literary project: French or American? Barr finds delightful fodder for foodies.”

Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Warmly written, balanced but unsparing in its portraits and culminating in a touching coda, Barr’s persuasive book overcomes the occasional longueur to offer an enhanced appreciation of some groundbreaking cooks and their acolytes.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Luke Barr has inherited the clear and inimitable voice of his great-aunt M. F. K. Fisher, and deftly portrays a crucial turning point in the history of food in America with humor, intimacy, and deep perception. This book is beautifully written and totally fascinating to me, because these were my mentors—they inspired a generation of cooks in this country.”

Alice Waters

“Luke Barr conjures the past and pries open the window on a little known moment in time that had profound implications on how we live today. With an insider’s access, a detective’s curiosity, and a poet’s sensitivity, he illuminates a culinary clique that not only changed the way we eat, but how we think about food. Provence, 1970 is as much a meditation on the nature of transition and the role of friendship, as it is on the power of food to unite, divide, and ultimately nourish the soul. For this ‘non-foodie,’ it was a revelation—for the connoisseur among us, it may well be orgiastic.”

Andrew McCarthy, author of The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down

“Luke Barr has brought the icons of the food world vibrantly to life and captured the moment when their passion for what’s on the plate sparked a cultural breakthrough. His graceful prose provides a thorough, affecting account of their talents and reveals how their disparate personalities defined the very essence of American cuisine.”

Bob Spitz, author of Dearie

“Brilliant conversation, dimmed lights, culinary intrigue, urchin mousse, a glass of Sauternes . . . Luke Barr has written one of the most delicious and sensuous books of all time. It brims with love of food and wine.”

Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook and Super Sad True Love Story


“Luke Barr has written such a lovely, shimmering, immersive secret history of an important moment that nobody knew was important at the time—which are almost always the most splendid kind of important moments..”

 Kurt Andersen

“Luke Barr has written a wonderful, sun-dappled account of the pleasures of cooking and eating in good company. With the deftest of touches, he describes a gathering of celebrated chefs—including Julia Child, his great-aunt M. F. K. Fisher, James Beard, and Richard Olney—and the way their American palates transformed French culinary rules for a homegrown audience. Both a meditation on the power of friendship and the uses of nostalgia, Provence, 1970 is the kind of book you want to linger with as long as possible.”

Daphne Merkin

“Luke Barr paints an intimate portrait of the ambitious, quarrelsome, funny, hungry pioneers who brought about a great culinary shift—the ending of the classical era, and the beginning of a newly experimental, wide-ranging, ambitious cuisine, one that was inspired by France but was quintessentially American in style and flavor. Provence, 1970 gives a front-row seat to the creation of modern American cooking.”

—Alex Prud’homme, coauthor with Julia Child of My Life in France

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