HEADLINER

Publisher Fayard
Publication Date 05 April 2023

Humanities and Non-Fiction

THE WORLD IS ON OUR PLATES

A narrative that reveals the secrets to the ingredients in the dishes we eat. 

A delicious journey around the world that reveals the secret garden behind our food. With Bill François, every meal becomes an adventure that offers a new perspective on what we put on our plates. 

 
Bill François starts with an indisputable fact: “When plants tell tall tales we don’t often listen!"
Few people actually know the story behind cornsalad or mache sometimes called lambs’ tongues. Many ingredients and dishes can teach us about the world we live in. This is why Bill François, biophysicist and author of Éloquence de la sardine (Fayard, 2019) (Eloquence of the Sardine: Extraordinary Encounters Beneath the Sea, Blackstone 2021), which taught us about underwater life, proposes a new journey into the discovery of the history of our food. He does this mostly through words... But not only..., because "with salads, there's nothing like them; flavor defines it all."
 
But what is the message behind the burning sensation of chilis, for example? The answer is obvious for Bill François who knows how to "read" tastes: "There's no question, we're their enemies. The burning sensation is to deter us from eating them. This is because we mammals fully digest their seeds which means they can’t germinate. Therefore, it’s in the plant's interest to discourage us from eating their fruit. Conversely, birds are its benefactors. Their digestive systems leave the seeds intact and their guano efficiently disperses them. For this reason, the chili pepper plant developed a targeted molecule, capsaicin, which burns mammals' mouths but has no effect on birds." 
 
"We were totally won over by the way in which Bill François draws in readers and conveys his wonder for the world around us. He is very erudite and very fond of colorful anecdotes and accents his texts with humor and poetry," explains Marion Charpentier, Rights Manager at Fayard.
 
After the incredible success  of Éloquence de la sardine, which has been translated into 17 languages to date, Le plus grand menu du monde has also became a bestseller with more than 12,000 copies sold in France and rights sold for eight languages - thanks not only to the originality of the book but also to the author's interest in foreign cultures: "Our rights’ team has also considered how ingredients and dishes vary around the world and looked at how to approach this for foreign rights sales. For example, Bill François has several anecdotes about cassava, so the Brazilian publisher (Todavia) suggested that a chapter on this plant be added to the next edition of Le plus grand menu du monde as a nod to his Brazilian readers," Marion Charpentier says. 
 
Katja Petrovic and Marion Charpentier
February 2024