Part of Emile Zola’s multigenerational Rougon-Macquart saga, The Belly of Paris is the story of Florent Quenu, a wrongly accused man who escapes imprisonment on Devil’s Island. Returning to his native Paris, Florent finds a city he barely recognizes, with its working classes displaced to make way for broad boulevards and bourgeois flats. Living with his brother’s family in the newly rebuilt Les Halles market, Florent is soon caught up in a dangerous maelstrom of food and politics. Amid intrigue among the market’s sellers–the fishmonger, the charcutière, the fruit girl, and the cheese vendor–and the glorious culinary bounty of their labors, we see the dramatic difference between “fat and thin” (the rich and the poor) and how the widening gulf between them strains a city to the breaking point.
Translated and with an Introduction by the celebrated historian and food writer Mark Kurlansky, The Belly of Paris offers fascinating perspectives on the French capital during the Second Empire–and, of course, tantalizing descriptions of its sumptuous repasts.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of History eBook: The Belly of Paris|
|Release Date: 05-12-2009|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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The Belly of Paris
In the silence of a deserted avenue, wagons stuffed with produce made their way toward Paris, their thudding wheels rhythmically echoing off the houses sleeping behind the rows of elm trees meandering on either side of the road. At the pont de Neuilly, a cart full of cabbages and another full of peas met up with eight carts of turnips and carrots coming in from Nanterre. The horses, their heads bent low, led themselves with their lazy, steady pace, a bit slowed by the slight uphill climb. Up on the carts, lying on their stomachs in the vegetables, wrapped in their black-and-gray-striped wool coats, the drivers slept with the reins in their fists. Occasionally the light from a gas lamp would grope its way through the shadows and brighten the hobnail of a boot, the blue sleeve of a blouse, or the tip of a hat poking from the bright bloom of vegetables—red bouquets of carrots, white bouquets of turnips, or the bursting greenery of peas and cabbages.
All along the road and all the nearby routes, up ahead and farther back, the distant rumbling of carts told of other huge wagons, all pushing on through the darkness and slumber of two in the morning, the sound of passing food lulling the darkened town to stay asleep.
Madame François’s horse, Balthazar, an overweight beast, led the column. He dawdled on, half asleep, flicking his ears until, at rue de Longchamp, his legs were suddenly frozen by fear. The other animals bumped their heads into the stalled carts in front of them, and the column halted with the clanking of metal and the cursing of drivers who had been yanked from their sleep. Seated up top, Madame François, with her back against a plank that held the v...