Friday, December 16, 2022

Vintage Weekend Cooking: Immovable Feast: A Paris Christmas by John Baxter

I originally posted this review back in 2021, but given that we are about to head off to Europe, it seemed like a good time to bring it again as a Vintage Weekend Cooking post. (Did I say 2021  - actually I meant 2011)

We are going to be in the Netherlands for Christmas. Of course, I would be lying if I said I wasn't hoping for a white Christmas, but if possible I would like it to snow on the day and then disappear ready in time for us to start driving! Is that being too selfish?

A witty cultural and culinary education, Immoveable Feast is the charming, funny, and improbable tale of how a man who was raised on white bread—and didn't speak a word of French—unexpectedly ended up with the sacred duty of preparing the annual Christmas dinner for a venerable Parisian family.

Ernest Hemingway called Paris "a moveable feast"—a city ready to embrace you at any time in life. For Los Angeles–based film critic John Baxter, that moment came when he fell in love with a French woman and impulsively moved to Paris to marry her. As a test of his love, his skeptical in-laws charged him with cooking the next Christmas banquet—for eighteen people in their ancestral country home. Baxter's memoir of his yearlong quest takes readers along his misadventures and delicious triumphs as he visits the farthest corners of France in search of the country's best recipes and ingredients. Irresistible and fascinating, Immoveable Feast is a warmhearted tale of good food, romance, family, and the Christmas spirit, Parisian style.

One day I was listening to The Book Show on our ABC and they interviewed an Australian author who had spent many years living in Paris after shorter stints in the US and Britain. They were talking about his book The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: a Pedestrian in Paris and given my infatuation with all things Paris recently I knew I wanted to read it. Unfortunately, my library didn't have it but they did have this book! Whilst I still want to read that one this was a worthy substitute!

John Baxter grew up in country Australia and dined on the bland food that was staple of the past. Whilst now Australian cuisine is varied, multicultural and based on fresh ingredients, it wasn't always the case. Baxter compares the Australia of his past and share how he learned to cook, how he impressed dates by being able to cook after he left Australia and compares and contrasts both the different dining experiences of the various countries he has lived in around the world and the way that Christmas is celebrated in Australia and France.

The main focus of the book however is detailing his quest for the perfect Christmas menu. After being accepted by his now wife's French family he took on the cooking duties each Christmas often trying new dishes that wouldn't normally grace the French table. Later this month I will share a passage from the book about his first French Christmas.

He takes us with us as he searches for the perfect ingredients - oysters, cheese, a piglet with skin so that he could share the perfect crackling - one of the great pleasures in life that is virtually unknown in France where most pork is sold without the skin! And with this list of perfect ingredients he can create an unforgettable menu for the Christmas festivities.

This was such a fun read. It was warm and funny and made me salivate as I read it! I can't wait to read more from Baxter. There were whole sections that I could have quoted from for weeks of Weekend Cooking posts, and it gave me several other ideas as well!

If you fancy indulging in some French festivities this Christmas, then this is a perfect book to read!


  1. My sister is heading to Paris for Christmas in a couple of days. Wouldn't this make an ideal read for her trip?!

  2. Here is my post for this weekend:

  3. Wishing you a safe and wonderful trip, I'm jealous! We are currently watched the TV series Van Der Valk and loving the scenery in Amsterdam.
    Also, the book is perfect for Christmas. I like foodie books and a Paris setting makes it even better!

  4. This one sounds like a lovely read, I'm going to look for it at the bookshop where I volunteer.