Maigret and the Wonderful Meals
Thirty-two years ago, in fact, a noted French food writer and a prestigious publisher got together to produce Madame Maigret's Recipes, a collection of instructions for the most enticing dishes from the seventy-five Maigret novels and twenty-eight short stories.
Robert J. Courtine, author of books on French cooking and of a food column for the French newspaper Le Monde, translated into recipes the dishes that Maigret enjoys so much at neighborhood bistrots, on his investigations all over France and, most memorably, in his own kitchen, as prepared by Mme. Maigret. The dishes are classified by type, and each is preceded by an excerpt or excerpts from Maigret stories in which the dish is mentioned.
These brief selections convey the flavor of Maigret's wanderings throughout France and of his leisurely love of a good meal. The juxtaposition of food talk with the sometimes grim titles of the stories from which it taken is also good for a smile, as in this introduction to Courtine's recipes for filets de harangs, or fileted herring:
"Bring us a carafe of Beaujolais right away. What's on the menu?"
"Andouilettes. Just came in from Auvergne this morning."
"Maigret decided to start with filets de harangs."
— Maigret and the Madwoman
Each recipe comes with Courtine's comments ("You can shell the mussels completely — they'll be easier to eat, but it won't look so amusing."), including suggestions for possible substitutions. The American edition, at least, includes a useful glossary of French wines along with suggested American substitutions. The publisher, by the way, is the Helen and Kurt Wolff imprint of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
The book is out of print, unless I am mistaken, but you may be able to find a copy in a secondhand bookshop, as I did. The entertaining, zestful writing may turn you into a fan of Maigret, of French cooking, or of both, even if you know nothing about either when you pick the book up.
© Peter Rozovsky 2007
French crime fiction
Belgian crime fiction