Delicious! Menu from the Midi a Book Review
There are nuances in French with words that mean different things depending on pronunciation or capitalisation. Midi is one of those words indicating a geographical location, the southern part of France; the 45th parallel is the dividing line for some people. However, in lowercase, midi also means mid-day and the divide between northern and southern cultural approaches to lifestyle. In his second book, Menu from the Midi, Colin Duncan Taylor explores a full spread of gastronomic discoveries such as Armagnac, the black Gascon pig, and pink garlic soup exclusive to this part of France.
If you like food, drink, and travel, “Menu from the Midi” is one book you need to add to your reading list.
Colin Duncan Taylor spent a short time in the British Royal Navy before moving on to a career in public relations, marketing, and management consultancy. He credits this part of his working life, and some exacting clients, with sharpening his writing skills. However, Colin found that writing for in-house and customer magazines, press releases and articles for the technology sector lacked creativity.
More recently, Colin has pursued a personal goal of writing and publishing books. After living in France for over 20 years, Colin has combined his love of research, passion for history, and appreciation of gastronomic traditions into two non-fiction books.
Published in September 2021, Menu from the Midi is a collection of short stories organised like a gourmet meal that starts with aperitif runs through the entrée and main course ending with dessert and a post-meal digestive. At 344 pages, the book is full of well-researched details, and most chapters include a short recipe or preparation tips. Organised just like a menu, Colin jumps into cocktails. In the Aperitif section, you discover Blanquette de Limoux, a sparkling wine that Thomas Jefferson enjoyed during his time in the region. While exploring the process for making Blanquette de Limoux, Colin tests the claims that this is the oldest sparkling wine globally.
After the appetiser courses, Colin walks through the Gaillac wine region and natural wines in a chapter called “Wine’s Wild West.” Now, it’s time to dive into the meal with two entrée selections, the previously mentioned pink garlic soup and an omelette aux cèpes that will have you searching for these mushrooms in the wild or at an upscale grocery store. The main course awaits with perhaps not surprisingly a feature on cassoulet, a hearty, iconic dish from southwest France. It’s France, so the cheese course follows and then finally dessert and if you have room, a strong digestive.
Beginning in 2018, Colin took a little over two years to write the Menu from the Midi. The book’s contents are well-researched and full of detail that could be dry, but Colin’s writing style is humorous, making for an engaging read.
“When I began this project, my goal was to celebrate the gastronomy of the Midi, using a broad definition of gastronomy. I was already familiar with the history and legends, the festivals and fairs, and the cultural background surrounding most of the items I had selected for my menu. What came as a surprise was the vast number of individuals, families, enterprises, associations and trade bodies that are committed to producing some of the finest raw ingredients and foodstuffs you are ever likely to encounter.” ~ Colin Duncan Taylor
Some questions for the Author
How did you decide on the book’s organisation?
I thought of writing about the region’s gastronomy with a solid historical AND producer perspective. I had come across the topics I had come across during my travels or other research: Blanquette de Limoux, pigeonniers, cassoulet, and the ice industry. When I finally started to think seriously about the structure of such a book, the menu idea occurred to me early on. Then it was a question of choosing or finding suitable items for each course, which had a strong story and strong links to our region. The menu then unfolds by course as it would in a restaurant, starting with the aperitif and finishing with a digestif.
What was your most surprising gastronomic discovery while writing the book?
The town of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, home of the famous cheese, was surprising. When I first went there, I was mystified and then astonished. However, the story of how success has turned Roquefort into a ghost town was my most surprising gastronomic discovery.
What was your goal in writing about the perhaps lesser-known gourmet experiences of the region?
I wanted to offer readers variety and credit some smaller producers who display such commitment to producing high-quality traditional foodstuffs. Good food starts with good ingredients.
Who Should Read It?
Menu from the Midi is a book for anyone who loves reading about French history and cultural practices. Food lovers will appreciate Colin’s respect for the individuals dedicated to carrying on gastronomic traditions and production. Organised similar to a menu, the book could easily be a reference guide for a gastronomic trip in the region. Francophiles, armchair travellers, and gourmets should all read this book. The endnotes and bibliography of Menu from the Midi contain a valuable list of additional reading and reference materials.
Where to Buy it
Available on Amazon, Menu from the Midi comes in paperback and e-readers versions. Click on the text link or image to order your copy.
Image credits: All photos were provided and published with Colin Duncan Taylor’s permission. Discover more about Colin and his books at www.colinduncantaylor.com.
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