“It is our national responsibility to cook and to eat well,” Ms. Branget, a deputy from the center-right party of President Nicolas Sarkozy, said as she washed sand from fat, spongy morels at her kitchen sink. “There are no political parties around the dinner table. By creating this book, male and female deputies are defending their regions and carrying out their political mandate.”
One could hardly imagine an American member of Congress making such a proclamation. But food is so much a part of France’s identity that the government led a successful campaign last year to win United Nations recognition of the French meal as a national treasure. Elected deputies can rise and fall on the extent to which they protect the terrains of their grape growers, the subsidies of their milk producers, the clean water of their oyster cultivators and the rights of their recreational hunters.
Seventy-two of the 111 female deputies (who make up about 18 percent of the Assembly) chose not to participate in the cookbook project, including two who hope to win the Socialist Party nomination for next year’s presidential election: Martine Aubry, the head of the party; and Ségolène Royal, the party nominee who lost to Mr. Sarkozy in 2007.
The presidential hopeful François Hollande from Corrèze, Ms. Royal’s former partner and the father of their four children, by contrast, related with gusto and a long explanation a recipe for “farcidure grillée du pays d’Egletons,” a potato-based dish with many versions that looks like a latke crossed with a Spanish omelet. He also defined it as women’s work, which may not help him with the women’s vote. “Voilà how for so many years on end women fed their families with almost nothing” except this “farcidure,” he wrote.