Gerard Depardieu’s “My Cookbook” has been around for a few years—four to be exact. It’s not standard practice to review a book so long after publication, not when there hasn’t been a new edition. But having just read it, I believe Depardieu’s book merits one more mention in the press.
I have always respected Depardieu as an actor. Not because he’s won awards, which he has, or because he’s respected, which he is, but because he convinces me every time I watch him in a film. He truly makes me believe he’s become a different person, one whose emotions are always intense and genuine.
I now respect him as a cook and as a writer. In “My Cookbook,” he talks about things most food writers don’t talk about—about walking shoeless through a ploughed field after the rain, the raw smell of the soil in his nostrils or listening to the sound that wine makes when you pour from the bottle into a crystal glass—evoking in the readers not just the pleasure of eating, but the pleasure of being alive.
Depardieu’s prose is clean and precise. His love of simplicity permeates his writing, when he alludes to the connections between the earth and us, between what we do to the soil or to the animals and what we eat tomorrow. He doesn’t just sound like another tiresome ecologist. He sounds like a peasant, like a cook, like someone who cares about nature. And in caring about nature, he enjoys eating nature. He enjoys the meat of animals that lived a good life more than that of industrially raised animals. He loves eating eel that had just been caught and lamb that was raised on local marshes. He talks lovingly about the two-day pig-killing ceremony in Gascony. He sees no contradiction in this—rightly so, in my opinion. Ignoring where our food comes from, and what happened to it before it reached our plate, is a crime worse than sacrificing a pig with your own hands.
The introduction to “My Cookbook” taught me to develop the connection between all sensual pleasures and food. It also taught me to write about the simplicity of cooking and to honour the animals that we so love devouring, but conveniently forget were alive before they reached our plate.