Garlic, Mint, & Sweet Basil by Jean-Claude Izzo is a small volume of essays about Marseille. It got off to a rocky start for me–the first one was too rambling and philosophical. But I’m glad I stuck with it, because I really loved the rest of the book.
One of Izzo’s themes is the place Marseille occupies between Northern Europe and Africa, the ways it is different from the rest of France, and what people want when they visit Marseille. He is critical of those who don’t want to experience the real culture and get to know the people: “We don’t try to meet the other. We only want what belongs to him. His sea, his beaches, his palm trees.”
As you might expect from the title, Izzo also writes about the food and flavors of Marseille. My very favorite quote from the book–and possibly my new motto–is this: “Eat garlic and drink wine. That’s life. Because, to paraphrase the writer Jim Harrison, it’s hard to get by in this life without garlic and wine.”
I recommend this for Francophiles, food-lovers, and anyone looking for a virtual getaway. Putting aside the first essay, it really is a beautifully written book.