The Perfect MealIn Search of the Lost Tastes of France

The Perfect Meal is part grand tour of France, part history of French cuisine, taking readers on a journey to discover and savor some of the world’s great cultural achievements before they disappear completely.

Some of the most revered and complex elements of French cuisine are in danger of disappearing as old ways of agriculture, butchering, and cooking fade and are forgotten. In this charming culinary travel memoir, John Baxter follows up his bestselling The Most Beautiful Walk in the World by taking his readers on the hunt for some of the most delicious and bizarre endangered foods of France.


The Perfect Meal: In Search of the Lost Tastes of France is the perfect read for foodies and Francophiles, cooks and gastronomists, and fans of food culture.

Part Grand Tour of France, part history of French cuisine: an irresistible journey, from Paris to Provence, to find “the perfect meal”


An expat Paris resident for more than twenty years, John Baxter began noticing an alarming trend: just as species of plants and animals are rapidly facing extinction globally, so too are the traditional ingredients and techniques of classic French cooking and eating. Indeed, he worried that the soul of the world’s most revered national cuisine is in danger of disappearing, as centuries-old ways of cooking, preparation, and farming wither away. Spurred to action, Baxter set off across the country on an unforgettable quest to taste the last great French dishes before they disappear forever—from Paris’s surviving haute cuisine establishments to the tiny local restaurants that still serve the remarkable regional dishes of Provence, Normandy, Cote d’Azur, and more.

John Baxter in his own words.


I was born in Sydney, Australia, but raised in a small country town called Junee. With little else to do, I went to the movies three times a week for most of my adolescence, which provided an instant education in Hollywood filmmaking.


My second interest, however, was science fiction, which I began writing in my late teens. I sold stories to British and American magazines, and in 1966 my first novel, The God Killers, was published in the United States and Britain. I also edited the first anthologies of Australian science fiction, and I wrote the first history of the Australian cinema.


In 1969 I came to Europe, settled in London, and began writing books on the cinema, including a biography of the director Ken Russell, as well as studies of John Ford, Josef von Sternberg, and the gangster and science fiction film genres. I worked as an arts journalist for various magazines and for BBC radio, and I served on the juries of some European film festivals. In 1974 I was invited to become visiting professor of film at Hollins College in Virginia, in the United States, where I remained for two years. While in America, I collaborated with Thomas Atkins on The Fire Came By: The Riddle of the Great Siberian Explosion, a bestselling book of scientific speculation; wrote a study of director King Vidor; and completed two novels, The Hermes Fall and Bidding.


Returning to London, I published the technological thriller The Black Yacht. In 1979 I moved to Ireland, and the following year returned to Australia, where I coscripted the 1988 science fiction film The Time Guardian, starring Carrie Fisher and Dean Stockwell. I also wrote and presented three TV series on the cinema, and I produced and presented the ABC radio program Books and Writing.


In 1989 I moved to Los Angeles, where I worked as a screenwriter and film journalist. The following year, I met my present wife, Marie-Dominique Montel, and relocated to Paris.


Since moving to France, I’ve published biographies of Federico Fellini, Luis Buñuel, Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas, and Robert de Niro, as well as three books of autobiography: A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict, dealing mainly with my fascination for collecting books; We’ll Always Have Paris: Sex and Love in the City of Light, a “romantic memoir” of my love affair with Paris; and Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas. I also compiled Carnal Knowledge: Baxter’s Concise Encyclopedia of Modern Sex.


I’m codirector of the annual Paris Writers Workshop, lecture frequently on writing, and conduct seminars and courses. My hobbies are cooking and adding to my large collection of modern first editions. When not writing, I can be found prowling the bouquinistes along the Seine or cruising the Internet in search of new acquisitions.

“Baxter’s command of French history and culture offers the reader a cornucopia of anecdote and detail worth savoring.”

— Booklist

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