The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book

First published in 1954, The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book is a gossipy account of life in 20th-century Paris as much as it is a celebration of French cuisine. Toklas knits meal descriptions into lighthearted anecdotes from her travels with her partner, Gertrude Stein, and dinner parties they hosted (they cooked bass for Picasso, for instance). Recipes--in paragraph form rather than a list of ingredients and steps--follow naturally from the narrative. Many of the classic French dishes, like boeuf bourguignon and bouillabaisse, could be on menus today; others, like boiled crawfish and "Liberation fruit cake," reflect wartime rationing. This edition, introduced by Ruth Reichl and featuring black-and-white line drawings by Sir Francis Rose, would make a perfect gift for fans of Julia Child. --Rebecca Foster, freelance reviewer, proofreader and blogger at Bookish Beck

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