The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth

“It is now fifteen years since I first approached the forbidding granite wall of rock, found the jagged cleft cut by the rushing torrent of the river, negotiated the narrow road on the ledge above the ravine, swung around the hairpin bends and plunged through one rock tunnel after another, until I found myself in the sun-splashed forest, surrounded, it seemed, by an orchestra of a thousand birds singing in harmony a hundred songs.”

Does this sound like a cookbook? That’s the magic of Roy Andries de Groot’s The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth. In this sentence he describes the first time he traveled to the valley of La Grande Chartreuse, fell in love with its cuisine and spent years chronicling the dishes. De Groot writes that his book is not a tourist guide, yet it is filled with descriptions of this high Alpine valley that will make you want to visit immediately. His descriptions are all the more amazing since de Groot was nearly sightless. Chefs rave about this book; Julia Child said it “is a whole way of life.” I’ve only just begun and read a recipe which takes three days to make… so it may serve as more of a travel than a cook book for me.

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