MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH EATING:
Lessons of Food and Love From a Year in Paris
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Thank you to Pamela Dorman Books for providing a copy for the giveaway! (See below)
Anyone who knows me well knows that I LOVE TO COOK! Cooking is a way for me to nurture the people I care about. Most of the cooking I do is simplistic, but I always pour a lot of love into each dish. I am not the type of person who collects cookbooks, but I ADORE recipes with a story. Family recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation, food that has a history and holds memories for those who eat it. If you’re anything like me, then you’ll savor every page of MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH EATING!
(Oh, and one more thing: Julia Child is mentioned in this book. My nickname for my grandma was Julia Child. I used to call her up and when she answered I would say, “May I please speak with Julia Child?” And my grandma knew that I had a cooking question. I cherish that memory sooooo much and whenever I make a recipe that she passed down to me, I’m reminded of that very special bond we had and how cooking and eating that delicious food brought us closer together.)
For all my Wisconsin and Illinois blogger/author/librarian friends, you can bet we’ll be eating something from this book at my annual “A Novel Cuisine Luncheon.”
When journalist Ann Mah’s diplomat husband is given a three-year assignment in Paris, Ann is overjoyed. A lifelong foodie and Francophile, she immediately begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a year-long post—alone. Suddenly, Ann’s vision of a romantic sojourn in the City of Light is turned upside down.
So, not unlike another diplomatic wife, Julia Child, Ann must find a life for herself in a new city. Journeying through Paris and the surrounding regions of France, Ann combats her loneliness by seeking out the perfect pain au chocolat and learning the way the andouillette sausage is really made. She explores the history and taste of everything from boeuf Bourguignon to soupe au pistou to the crispiest of buckwheat crepes. And somewhere between Paris and the south of France, she uncovers a few of life’s truths.
Like Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French and Julie Powell’s New York Timesbestseller Julie and Julia, Mastering the Art of French Eating is interwoven with the lively characters Ann meets and the traditional recipes she samples. Both funny and intelligent, this is a story about love—of food, family, and France.
From page one, Ann Mah transported me to Paris! I savored each tasty page, identified with her frustrations over cultural differences, and travelled along side her as she journeyed throughout France, searching for the best cuisine.
I found myself drifting into memories of Paris and France, sipping wine, eating in cafes and restaurants. Most of the memories were joyous, but some came with a flush of embarrassment as I remembered that we initially ate like barbarian Americans, stuffing food down our throats in comparison to our French counterparts. In France, eating is an art form, something to be savored over hours. (Dinner started at 8 pm – if not later – and would go on for hours. Sometimes people sat until midnight or later. Can’t imagine a restaurant here allowing patrons to sit that long. In that period of time, they’d rotate at least 2-3 more sets of guests.) I thought about this and others awkward and embarrassing moments after Mah shares some of hers.
Mastering the Art of French Eating is much more than a book about food. It captures the author’s struggles to create a life for herself after her diplomat husband is given a year assignment in Iraq. Mah makes some comparisons to her own life to the famous chef, Julia Child. Like Child’s husband, Mah’s husband is a diplomat. Mah was raised on watching Julia’s show and when she was a child, she cooked recipes from Child’s cookbooks. There are plenty of other connections that culinary fans with enjoy.
The subtitle for this novel is: Lessons in Food and Love From a Year in Paris. Yes, there are lots of lessons about food and readers will love the stories and the history behind the tastes and smells. Her trips across France are vivid and readers will have no problem picturing the countryside and the people she met. The lessons on love are interwoven and subtle. Mah had to learn to love herself in a different way, to appreciate what she has to contribute or stay locked up in her apartment alone and lonely. Food helps her get out into the streets of Paris and out of her comfort zone. There’s also the love she has for her husband and how they stay connected so far apart from each other.
I absolutely recommend this novel for anyone who loves Paris. France. Cooking. Eating. Or if you appreciate a well-written memoir. There are recipes included throughout the book. You bet that I’ll be trying plenty of them!
About Ann Mah:
From her blog:
I’m a food and travel writer and author of a food memoir, Mastering the Art of French Eating (Viking Penguin), and a novel, Kitchen Chinese (HarperCollins). My articles have appeared in the New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, the International Herald Tribune and other publications. I currently split my time between Paris and New York City; I love eating everywhere. Thank you for sharing my food adventures!
To learn more about Ann, check out her website.
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