New Books Network

Stéphane Henaut and Jeni Mitchell

A Bite-Sized History of France

Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment

The New Press 2018

New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in FoodNew Books in French StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & Society March 25, 2019 Beth Mauldin

From the cassoulet that won a war to the crêpe that doomed Napoleon, from the rebellions sparked by bread and salt to the new...

From the cassoulet that won a war to the crêpe that doomed Napoleon, from the rebellions sparked by bread and salt to the new cuisines forged by empire, the history of France is intimately entwined with its gastronomic pursuits. A witty exploration of the facts and legends surrounding some of the most popular French foods and wines by a French cheesemonger and an American academic, A Bite-Sized History of France: Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment (The New Press, 2018) tells the compelling and often surprising story of France from the Roman era to modern times. Traversing the cuisines of France’s most famous cities as well as its underexplored regions, this innovative social history explores the impact of war and imperialism, the age-old tension between tradition and innovation, and the enduring use of food to prop up social and political identities.

The origins of the most legendary French foods and wines—from Roquefort and cognac to croissants and Calvados, from absinthe and oysters to Camembert and champagne—also reveal the social and political trends that propelled France’s rise upon the world stage. They help explain France’s dark history of war and conquest, as well as its most enlightened cultural achievements and the political and scientific innovations that transformed human history. These gastronomic tales will edify even the most seasoned lovers of food, history, and all things French.

Stéphane Henaut grew up in Frankfurt and Nantes, before moving to London and embarking on a wide-ranging career in food, including working in the Harrods fromagerie and cooking for the Lord Mayor of London’s banquets. He later returned to Nantes with his family, selling obscure vegetables in a French fruiterie,before joining one of Berlin’s finest fromageries.

Jeni Mitchell spent most of her adult life in Washington, DC, working as a researcher and editor in foreign affairs, before moving to London to begin graduate school. She met Stephane on her first day in London; four years later, they married. She has a PhD in war studies from King’s College London, where she is a teaching fellow specializing in civil war, insurgency and rebellion.


Beth Mauldin is an Associate Professor of French at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Her research interests include French cultural studies, film, and the social and cultural history of Paris.