How six ex-pats changed the way Americans eat

The Gourmands' WayPrior to the middle of the 20th century, the American food scene was stagnant. A post-war boom led to increased availability of canned and processed foods, and less and less food was made at home, from scratch. That trend began to reverse when the likes of Julia Child and Richard Olney brought French influences back with them from extended stays in France. 

The Gourmands' Way: Six Americans in Paris and the Birth of a New Gastronomy, released last month, explores the outsized influence a small group of individual ex-pats had on American food culture. The six people discussed in The Gourmands' Way  are:  war correspondent A. J. Liebling; Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein's life partner, who reinvented herself at seventy as a cookbook author; M.F.K. Fisher, a sensualist and fabulist storyteller; Julia Child, a television celebrity and cookbook author; Alexis Lichine, an ambitious wine merchant; and Richard Olney, a reclusive artist who reluctantly evolved into a brilliant writer on French food and wine. 

The book  explores the lives and writings of this select group, paying particular attention to their individual struggles as writers, to their life circumstances, and, ultimately, to their particular genius at sharing awareness of French food with everyday Americans. In doing so, this group biography also tells the story of an era when America adored all things French.

NPR's The Salt recently interviewed author Justin Spring, who explains more about the unique contributions of each of these individuals, and how their legacy continues to this day.  

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