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  • The Fairy Tale Magazine

Cinderella's Hearth

Updated: 2 days ago

THIS WEEK - The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth

There is a book, an old one, and it transports you back in time to a place that no longer exists. A place of beauty and natural grandeur and feasts fit for any fairy tale prince and princess.

It’s called The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth, and I just finished it for the third or fourth time. It’s not a fairy tale or a fantasy novel, but the time and place feels just as remote and magical. Roy Andreis de Groot discovered this little inn or “auberge” in a valley in the Chartreuse Mountains in the French Alps.

But don’t look for it.

The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth (“L’Auberge de l’Atre Fleuri”) no longer exists. Neither does some of what makes the Chartreuse area so special. Like everywhere else the winters are warmer these days, and the snow the region needs to have an abundance of foraging food and winter sports has dropped substantially since this book was published 50 years ago. (There is no 50th anniversary edition as far as I can tell.)

Andries de Groot writes with an elegiac tone about the inn and the area. He knew, even when he first visited, that the unpretentious, simple way of life that typified the valley was dying. So I read the descriptions of nature and food with a sense that I’m visiting Brigadoon.

The modest auberge was run by Ray and Vivette, the two women who produce magical food and an equally compelling alcohol menu. They were not trained professionals, but both came from family traditions that were powerfully immersed in food. The food and drink they turned out ranged from simple to magnificent, and they used local ingredients abundantly. The feasts include cheeses and fresh fruits, parts of the animals we often don’t eat in the US (that were usually freshly killed mere hours before being cooked). There’s enough booze to pickle almost anyone’s liver.

The author also writes about the history, weather, flora, and fauna of the region in the first third of the book. That he does it so beautifully is remarkable, because he was already blind when he wrote it. You’ll get a ton of menu descriptions, even in that portion, and the remaining two thirds consists of recipes. I don’t read the recipes to cook. I read them for inspiration and to remind myself to eat locally-raised food whenever possible.

The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth unleashed the worst sort of demanding behavior in tourists, so please read both the preface and the foreword, as they help you understand this book. Despite the awful tourist behavior, there is a lovely upside to the book: generations of famous American chefs credit it with inspiring them to cook.

Read this book. You’ll thank me.

Oh, and you’ll also realize where the color chartreuse comes from. Hint: It’s booze-related.

You can find The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth here.

Until next week,

Stay enchanted!


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