What is the collective noun for “food writers”? A gobble? A feast? And what primitive instinct compels these exotic creatures to migrate annually to the south of France? If these are among the questions that keep you awake at night, I would draw your attention to Provence, 1970 (Random House), Luke Barr’s discursive investigation of the winter when, “more or less coincidentally, six major culinary figures, including Julia Child, James Beard, and M.F.K. Fisher, found themselves together in the south of France.” Barr (Fisher’s great-nephew) structures his book around his discovery of his great-aunt’s diary—“a pale green spiral-bound notebook with the year ‘1970’ written on the front in ballpoint pen”—which turns out to contain not only “a minutely observed account of her changing relationship with France,” but also (conveniently for Barr) “an inside-out version of the very story I was researching, about American food and cooking finding its way from beneath the shadow of France.” This makes Provence, 1970 sound like crack cocaine for anyone with a trace of “foodie” or Francophilia in their genes—and it does indeed satisfy those specific cravings. Where the book falls short is in Barr’s repeated attempts to position the winter of 1970 as a pivotal moment in the history of American food, a moment “when the democratization of cooking and taste became part of the national conversation in America.” In short there’s too much Barr and not enough M.F.K. If you want a stronger hit of the real thing, track down a copy of Fisher’s Map of Another Town: A Memoir of Provence (1964), or her Long Ago in France: The Years in Dijon (1991).