What came before the BAGUETTE?
A long list of breads, in fact. Read about Neolithic and Gallo-Roman bread, the boule, pains de fantaisie, the jocko,the pain marchand de vin and a host of other breads - yes, even the baguette - in:
To see the table of contents, click HERE.
Welcome to Chez Jim
Chez Jim is Jim Chevallier's Web site. If it is difficult to define, well so, say some, is Jim.
The two largest groups of visitors to this site have typically come for the free original monologues and the film finance information. More recently, many have been drawn by information about the origin of the baguette, (one of the first of an increasing number of items here about bread and baking). Some are also drawn by bits of information on figures such as Tim Leary, the Beatniks and Louise Nevelson. But since its earliest incarnation in 1996, the site has also included genealogy information, looks at Paris and samples of fiction and poetry.
In subsequent years, it has grown to reflect new interests, including self-publication of several books, further travel (cross-country, up to Northern California and to Saigon, among other places) and the 18th century in France (including information on the Bastille and a number of 18th century recipes).
NOTE: Many of the page formats reflect the changes in the site over the years, and its generally eclectic nature. To thine own selves be true...
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Outstanding Academic Title for 2019
Available since June 2018
For more about the book, visit the Paris Food History site.
Where did the CROISSANT come from?
Read about kipfeln, viennoiserie and even the baguette in:
For more about the book and August Zang, click HERE.
- February 2021
A scholarly review of Before the Baguette by Peter Scholliers, a professor at the Institute for European Studies. The review is behind a pay wall, in the latest edition of Food and History:
a curious patchwork of text, quotes, pictures, thematic insertions on grey background, and five appendices among which medieval recipes and a 29-page glossary. It relies on historical literature and online resources...
Jim Chevallier... has done a good job in collecting data with regard to the usage of grains, the varieties of bread, the regulations with regard to quality, weight and price, the differences between consumers, and the cultural meanings of bread. He also touches upon the work of the baker, leavening agents, ovens and milling, and he thus covers a fairly broad field of bread history in France.
- December 2020
A new book on the Porteuses de Pain - That is, the female bread porters who, for over a century, delivered bread in Paris and other French cities. These women had hard lives, but were so much a part of French street life that artists, writers and even filmmakers portrayed them in numerous works.
Now a new book looks at contemporary views of these women, at their employment and salaries, their social roles, their families, their involvement (as victims and perpetrators) in crime, their hospitalizations and their portrayals in the arts: They Came Bearing Bread:The Hard Lives of the Porteuses de Pain. Also available on Kindle.
- November 2020
At last, a third edition of How To Cook an Early French Peacock - This translation of Anthimus' sixth century dietetic now includes additional information on Frankish food and an index for the print edition. For more, visit Samples from De Observatione Ciborum.
Now on-line from November 12, a talk on the History of the Baguette - Hosted on Crowdcast by The Redwood Library & Athenæum: "Author Jim Chevallier will join us to explain how a French national icon came to be. We "knead" to know!". (Registration required.)
- September 2020
Before the Baguette named a World Gourmand Cookbook winner - The book has been named for the United States in the Bread category of the Autumn Harvest winners.
- August 2020
Cited by National Geographic! - From "The story behind the classic French dish boeuf bourguignon": "The first mention of anyone actually eating the dish comes in an 1878 Paris travel guide, Baedeker's Paris and its Environs. It claims only the plump waitresses at a Bouillon Duval chain restaurant make the boeuf bourguignon acceptable, which, as French food historian Jim Chevallier observes, makes it apparent the dish 'did not enjoy a great reputation'." (From A History of the Food of Paris, p. 191.)
Now on-line: A talk on "Dining Out in Paris Before Restaurants" - The Culinary Historians of Southern California have finally posted the video of this talk, given in February
at the Los Angeles Central Library: Dining Out in Paris Before Restaurants - Jim Chevallier.
- June 2020
Coming June 27: A Brief History of the Croissant and the Baguette - As part of the virtual conference Past to Apron: "Past to Apron is a new virtual conference focused on culinary history. Geared to the general interest level, the one day event offers a range of topics highlighting various regions and timeframes presented by chefs, authors, historians, brands and cultural institutions." For more and to get a ticket, visit Past to Apron.
- February 2020
The Culinary Historians of Southern California hosted a talk on February 8 on Dining Out in Paris Before Restaurants which went very well; lots of books sold and an enthusiastic response.
The Culinary Historians of San Diego then hosted a talk on February 15 titled Before the Baguette: The History of French Bread which was also well-received. Sales of several different books more than paid for the drive down and back (with lots of stops at old bookstores along the way).
- December 2019
And now - an award! - A History of the Food of Paris has been named one of its "Outstanding Academic Titles for 2019" by CHOICE (from the American Library Association).
- November 2019
Just out! The history of French bread! - Long in the works, Before the Baguette: The History of French Bread is finally available for lovers of bread, bread history and others.
- October 2019
The Austrians take notice... -
Ten years ago, August Zang and the French Croissant came out, tracing the influence of an Austrian entrepreneur on French baking. Now, an Austrian book has appeared on that history (Vom Kipferl zum roissant: Wiener Feingebäck einfach selbst machen. Die Geschichte der Viennoiserie) and includes this quote: "Without the meticulously researched book by American author Jim Chevallier, "August Zang and the French Croissant," which appeared exactly ten years ago, many answers had not been possible.".
And this from CNN... - A CNN article on world breads - published in French, Spanish and other languages, as well as English - states: "But like some of the greatest traditions, the baguette is a relatively recent invention... According to Paris food historian Jim Chevallier, long, narrow breads similar to modern baguettes gained prominence in the 19th century, and the first official mention is in a 1920 price list. (French President Emmanuel Macron nonetheless argues that the baguette deserves UNESCO status.)".
- July 2019
Slowly, the reviews come in... -
Over a year after A History of the Food of Paris came out, this nice review from American Reference Books Annual:"Sprinkled with black-and-white pictures and illustrations of Paris and its history in relation to food, this book is a wonderful guide for anyone visiting Paris and looking to experience its culinary history and modern restaurants".
- June 2019
Jim Chevallier, croissant expert... -
and guest on popular YouTube star Hannah Hart's episode of Edible History on how I Tried To Make A 140-Year-Old Croissant Recipe.
- January 2019
Visiting the Culinary Historians of San Diego... -
With a talk on January 19 at the San Diego library on "Dining Out in Paris Before Restaurants".
- November 2018
Not merely a book about the history of food in Paris - A very nice review for the new book: "This is not merely a book about the history of food in Paris. It is also covers the history of writing about the food of Paris. [Chevallier] masterfully procures for the reader a condensed history of Paris, spanning from the time of the Neanderthals to the modern day; considering this scope, his approach is neither dry nor tedious but surprisingly concise..."
Visit the book's Amazon page for the rest.
- August 2018
Coming September 24 at Los Angeles' The Last Bookstore - Jim Chevallier speaks on "Dining Out Before the Restaurant". Visit Eventbrite for the details.
- June 2018
A History of the Food of Paris is now out! The first comprehensive history of the food of Paris is now available! See the main site for more information and a discount code.
And in related news, on June 16, the Culinary Historians of Southern California will present a talk by Jim Chevallier on "Dining Out Before Restaurants Existed" at the Pacific Palisades library.
- May 2018
Florida's ACTeen performs monologues from Bullies On May 11, 2018, teens from the Amelia Community Theater's ACTeen program gave a staged reading of monologues from Jim Chevallier's Bullies: Monologues on Bullying for Teens and Adults.
- January 2018
Supporting A History of the Food of Paris A new blog - Paris Food History -, starting with a post on how tipping came to restaurants, and (of course) a Facebook page. And the main site for the book now includes a page of videos related to Paris history, markets and restaurants.
- December 2017
Official announcement of A History of the Food of Paris A huge first step: the book is up on Amazon for pre-order (at a deep discount):
- November 2017
"Modernist Bread" hits the shelves This monumental project FINALLY made it out the door (and through this contributor's) and has been getting widespread media coverage ever since.
- September 2017
"The Great Medieval Water Myth" cited Do YOU think medieval drinkers drank beer and wine to avoid bad water? Back in 2013, I demonstrated that this was the Great Medieval Water Myth. A few months later the post went viral and has remained popular since. Now it's been cited (for the first time?) in print (in Pete Brown's Miracle Brew): "But in 2013 food history blogger Jim Chevallier challenged this, presenting numerous references to water being drunk as a matter of course from Greek and Roman times, through the ages of the Franks and Gauls to classical France and Italy."
- August 2017
Two book projects and Le Figaro The manuscript for one book is about to go into production; another (Modernist Bread) is now slated to appear in November. Meanwhile, an article in the Figaro has just cited August Zang and the French Croissant: How Viennoiserie Came to France in an article. This modest little self-published book has become the standard reference for croissant history.
- March 2017
Ah Paris....Where I always see old friends (two of whom took me to their country house by Aix), but also went this time to do research for my book. Ate in all kinds of restaurants, photographed all kinds of food. Now that I've researched the city, many streets have multiple layers for me, stretching back to Roman times.
- October 2016
Just back from Cuba! Where a bread historian naturally enough would go to study bread, bakers and bakeries in Havana. For some glimpses of the trip, see this video and the photo montages here.
See it now, before the first Starbucks.
- September 2016
Modernist Bread is now available for pre-order: "Although Modernist Bread will now be arriving on shelves in May 2017—later than we originally anticipated—it will be gorgeously illustrated, including modern scientific research and rigorously tested techniques and recipes. We have collaborated and consulted with 75 industry leaders around the world, including historians Jim Chevallier and....".
- March 2016
New book contract! Coming.... well, not soon, a book on the history of the food of Paris. Stay tuned...
- December 2015
Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover's Companion to New York City, just published, includes two contributions by Jim Chevallier.
- August 2015
Cited in the French newspaper Libération:"It is starting in 1920, according to the writer Jim Chevallier, that our first baguettes appear, the very image of the purity of flour.” La victoire croûte que croûte.
- April 2015
In the Smithsonian Magazine's inaugural edition of their Journeys Travel Quarterly:“The croissant began as the Austrian kipfel but became French the moment people began to make it with puffed pastry, which is a French innovation,” says Chevallier. “It has fully taken root in its adopted land.” To read more, visit:
Is the Croissant Really French?: A brief history of the croissant – from kipfel to Cronut.
- July 2014
Hold Chez Jim in your hand! For several years now, most books from Chez Jim Books have only been available as ebooks. But here's a surprise: people are buying print books again! And so for the first time a number of Chez Jim books are available in print: original works like Paris Poems, Bullies: Monologues on Bullying for Teens and Adults, and About the Baguette: Exploring the Origin of a French National Icon and translations such as A Tour of Two Cities: Eighteenth century London and Paris compared and How to Cook an Early French Peacock: De Observatione Ciborum, as well as a number of extracts from Le Grand d'Aussy's work - The Well-Set Table in France: Furniture and Settings for Meals from the Gauls to the Eighteenth Century, Eggs, Cheese and Butter in Old Regime France, Catholic Fasting in France: From the Franks to the Eighteenth Century and
Feasts and All Their Finery: Elegant Dining in Old Regime France.
- December 2013
Want to party like it was 1455? Or 1378, or 1565, or 1668? The kings of France and a duke or two put on some memorable feasts in these years and Le Grand d'Aussy goes into great detail about these and other glories of French dining in the centuries before his time (the eighteenth century). These are some of the liveliest chapters in his three volumes of food history and now they are available in English:
- November 2013
Sort of a food history blog When you're writing two books - one on early medieval food, the other on the history of French bread -, you get a lot of leftover tidbits you'd like to share. So why not put them in a blog? Say, a blog called Les Leftovers: sort of a food history blog"
Subjects so far have included aqueducts under the Franks, a soup served to Gregory de Tours, snails found in tombs, shifts in French bread and the evolution of courses in early French table service. So if this is the kind of thing that interests you, come take a look.
- July 2013
Quoted in the New Yorker! In Bill Buford's Notes of a Gastronome "Cooking With Daniel" in the July 29th New Yorker one finds the following quote "The food historian Jim Chevallier points out that the word 'Vegetarian' didn't exist yet." A brief, but flattering, mention.
- April 2013
Coffee came to France in 1638. And then? Essentially, it disappeared. Le Grand's tale of how it reappeared - more than once - before finally taking hold as one of France's favorite drinks is only part of what he discusses in a long section on non-alcoholic drinks in France. Before sodas and milkshakes came lemonade and rissolis, and other drinks long forgotten today. This new translation gives English speakers a chance to read one of the classic accounts of how all these drinks took hold in France.
- December 2012
What was the first true American bread? How did American bread get to be so bad? What does 'biscuit' mean?
The answer to the first question is corn bread (which was once eaten in all the early states); the answer to the second is long, and starts at the end of the nineteenth century and continues through various developments into the Forties; the answer to the third depends on the era and the country. All of these and other questions are addressed in Jim Chevallier's articles on Bread and Biscuits in the second edition of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, now available:
- August 2012
Once pork fat was considered appropriate for Catholic "meatless" days...
This is only one of the peculiar facts uncovered by the eighteenth century writer Le Grand d'Aussy in his exploration of Catholic fasting in France, now available in English:
|Have you ever wanted to gild a peacock?|
They did in fourteenth century France, but a "golden peacock" (or, if you prefer, swan) is only one of a number of dishes described in this little known predecessor to Taillevent's Viandier:
How To Cook a Golden Peacock: Enseingnemenz Qui Enseingnent à Apareillier Toutes Manières de Viandes - A Little-Known Cookbook from Medieval France
- April 2012
What was REAL medieval food like?
Most of what people think they know about medieval food comes from a few centuries at the end of the period, when Taillevent's famous cookbook (The Viandier) appeared. So what happened to all those other centuries? Find out here:
French Food Before Taillevent.
Duels, Assault and Domestic Violence in Pre-Revolutionary France, the third volume of the Old Regime Police Blotter is now available:|
A woman who killed three men in a sword fight; drunken musketeers assaulting passers-by; a wife whose husband brought his mistress home and beat her when she objected.... More colorful characters and dramatic vignettes from Old Regime France.
- January 2012
France was barely born when a Greek doctor wrote a Frankish king a letter, telling him what to eat. A letter in Latin.
Now available in English:
Or visit this page for some samples.
- September 2011
Love wine? Love history?
Love the history of wine?
Here's one of the few comprehensive histories of wine in France, from the Gauls through the eighteenth century, in a new translation:
- May 2011
Now available:Thirty TV Type Scenes for Two People
on Kindle and
Barnes and Noble ebook
See TV Type Scenes for more.
- August 2011
Samples from BULLIES - a new monologues series for teens and adults - are now up.
- October 2010
Like bread? Read French?
Check out the new Dictionnaire Universel du Pain:
With articles on Austrian bread, the baguette, the croissant, pain de fantaisie, porteuses de pain, Viennese baguette and bread, viennoiserie and Christophe-Auguste Zang, signed....
- August 2010
The latest addition to the site: a look at
Here are other recent changes:
And, inaugurating the bread and baking theme: