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OP: Auberge of the Flowering Hearth

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by Roy Andries de Groot

We try hard to not overuse the word “classic,” but this is one book to which that term perfectly applies. Published in 1973, Auberge of the Flowering Hearth is a work that defies genre. Memoir? Yes. Cookbook? Certainly. Travel writing? Surely in part. A literary accomplishment? Many believe so. A vehicle for fiction? Probable. 

We call it an experience. Not all might agree, but it is one of our favorites and much to be reckoned with.

Author Roy Andries de Groot (1910–1983) was a fine writer, journalist, and, by all accounts, a cantankerous, demanding perfectionist. Injured during the London Blitz of 1940, he eventually became totally blind but remained a tireless observer of a world he could not see. Some of that was through his sense of taste, which led him into a career of writing about food and wine, but he also became a student of natural history—one who appreciated the link between the way that people lived and ate and the world that they inhabited.

Auberge surely exemplifies de Groot’s outlook. It came together in the late 1960s when he was traveling in the Alpine area of southeastern France to study the making of that region’s famed Chartreuse liqueur. There, in a high mountain valley, he discovered a small country inn run by two remarkable women who had achieved in that simple establishment the almost perfect integration of environment and way of life. His account of that stay and experience is, remarkably, highly visual, offering descriptions of the constantly changing montane valley and its products, exploring both the natural world and the rich culinary traditions sustained with crisp but loving professionalism by the aubergistes. 

Recipes are here in abundance, but this is still not as much a cookbook as it is a book about experiencing both food and the natural world. It is all brought together—rain showers and rushing streams, rocks and soil, meadow herbs, wild garlic, country markets, fishing in the mountain lakes, wines, cheeses, rustic kitchens, wood-burning hearths, and—above all—intense pride in terroir and tradition. 

Our copy is the true first printing by publisher Bobbs-Merrill. It has an all-cloth three-piece binding and is in Near Fine condition inside and out, save for a slightly musty smell. Almost surely—more’s the pity—never cooked from. The jacket is Very Good, though price-clipped and showing wear about the edges. Collection-worthy in all respects.

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