Love the photo above. Borrowed (pilfered) it from David Lebovitz's blog Living the Sweet Life in Paris because I enjoyed the idealized attachment I immediately had to the image and then laughed out loud when reading the caption, "Like most good people of Provence, she consulted the best book on authentic French cuisine available, The Sweet Life in Paris, and used my recipe." This sums up his book The Sweet Life in Paris perfectly, neither a saccharine, romanticized view of the French or a bitter indulgence of misplaced loathing. And I did mention laugh out loud funny?
It all begins as for so many with a visit and a memory:
"I had fallen in love with Paris when I had attended some advanced pastry classes at the prestigious Ecole Lenotre a few years earlier. One night after a lively dinner with friends, I was walking alone across one of the graceful bridges that cross the Seine. If you've ever walked through Paris at night, you can't help noticing that its beauty is magnified in the darkness; lights glow softly everywhere and frame the centuries-old buildings and monuments in spectacular ways. I remember that evening breathing in the damp air rising off the Seine, watching the Bateaux Parisians gliding on the river, loaded with awestruck tourists, and illuminating the monuments in their wake, the dramatic light hitting a building for just a few moments before moving on to the next."
So this statement would be like getting to know someone, the early days of dating. Well then Lebovitz actually decides to move to the city of lights after the sudden death of his partner, departing his northern California world for a fresh start in Paris. What follows is the very amusing story of how Lebovitz navigates the perplexities of his new home peppered along the way with a variety of recipes prompted from each chapter's theme. By book's end, the author's relationship with Paris has progressed from infatuation to committed relationship, successful despite the revelation of all the beloved's faults.
And the faults? Well, I particularly enjoyed reading of the author shedding his sweats and shaving and dressing quite neatly in order to take the trash out. So as not to be seen by his neighbors wearing his Sunday worst. Then there are the stories of French painters and housekeepers who seem to never want to leave your home once employed. The lack of shower curtains and the wet disgusting rags popular in French households for the required mopping up. Optional refrigeration of some foods like uh, mayonaisse and milk. Navigating the unspoken rules of obtaining less hostile customer service. Peeing in public or why the French consume tiny bits of water, don't care to use bathrooms in a host's home and have few available public toilets. And why one should not have to wait in that atrociously long line if one does not feel like it.
A perfect quick read for anyone with a sense of humor who has ever idealized what living in Paris might be like. Or foodies who would like a window into Parisian life with asides about the cuisine. If you wonder if the book could be right for you, check out Lebovitz's blog (it will make you hungry and/or inclined to cook) for the tone and type of content are the same. The smartass quality was good for me but maybe not all.