Monday, January 23, 2017

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes - Elizabeth Bard

 I don't even know where to begin.  That's what taking a good four years off reviewing will get you.  A shriveled brain.   Hi.  I'm Mindy.  As a very few of you may remember, I started up this blog back in 2008, but took some time off a few years ago after the birth of my fourth hairy hooligan, ostensibly so that I could spend time with said hooligans.  I got called to be Relief Society President within a year.   That may not mean anything to some of you, but the rest of you are thinking., "OH CRAP."  You're right.  That's exactly what I thought...and a few other less charitable things.  Forget not reviewing, I barely had time to read anything that didn't start with "And it came to pass...."  It was delightful.  Most of the time.  I realized something in all those years -- you can make plans for what you want out of life and how you are going to get there, but God likely has something else in mind. Sometimes, you have to learn to roll with it.  With that in mind, here I stand at the edge of the reviewing pool ready to dip my toe back in.  Terrified.  Because I will probably suck for a good long while.  Be gentle with me.  My brain is all shrivel-y.

Summary:  In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman -- and never went home again.  Was it love at first sight?  Or was it the way her knife slid effortlessly through her pave au poivre, the steak's pink juices puddling into the buttery pepper sauce. Lunch in Paris is the story of a young woman caught up in two passionate affairs -- one with her new beau, Gwendal, the other with French cuisine.   Plunging headlong into the most romantic of cities, Bard encounters bustling open-air markets, hipster bistros, and size-two femme fatales.  She learns to gut her first fish (with a little help from Jane Austen) and soothe pangs of homesicknesss (with the rise of a chocolate souffle).  The deeper Bard immerses herself in French cuisine, the more Paris itself begins to translate. Bard's memoir, with it mouth watering recipes, is an irresistible adventure for anyone who has dreamed that lunch in Paris could change her life.

My Review:  Lunch in Paris is the part memoir, part travelogue, part cookbook of Elizabeth Bard, an American writer who traveled to Paris, met and married a Frenchman and unintentionally inherited his country.  I have a particular weakness for this mashed up genre of a book, but have yet to come up with a good name for it.  MemtravelOMNOMNOM is the best I have come up with so far.  It's a work in progress.  I'll keep you posted.

Elizabeth's evolution from newbie tourist to comfortable ex-pat seemed a little slow going at times but paired together with her adventures in the kitchen and the streets of Paris, I was quickly and quietly hooked. I read each page with the intense interest of someone who hasn't read a book in a while and is attempting to physically devour it with her eyeballs.   Elizabeth recounts her often failed attempts to not only learn the language, but to reconcile her own culture and ideologies with those of her of her adopted country.  For an outspoken American living in steeped-in-tradition Paris, this is easier said than done.  Hi-jinks occasionally ensue.  The author's vivid descriptions of the markets, cafes, souffles, cheeses, and choquetttes had me longing to not only learn French, but to jump on a plane to Paris and frantically consume everything within a 12 mile radius.  Having said that, my hands down favorite aspect of the book should be no surprise to those who know me.  Quite frankly, the recipes at the end of each chapter just flat out made my day.  Whether it was a totally doable Wild Salmon with Dill and Cucumber Salad, sinfully decadent Chocolate Profiteroles, a simple Goat Cheese Salad with Fresh Figs, or Poached Wilted Leeks and Homemade Mayonnaise, well, let's just say it's good thing I owned this book because I drooled all over it.  All together, there are nearly 100 recipes that my inner chef is dying to try.

If forced to rank the different aspects of this book, I'd say the recipes at the end of each chapter would be at the top of my list, followed by Elizabeth's exploration of Paris and description of its culture, and then the story of her transformation. Lunch in Paris is heralded as "Eat, STAY, Love" by author Adriana Trigiani, and I find I quite agree.  It definitely motivated me to become a little more acquainted with French language, culture, and cuisine and provided a greater understand of what it must like to be "an American woman who discovers Paris, one meal at a time."  I recommend it to anyone who loves a good MemtravelOMNOMNOM.

Update:  Since writing this review, I've made the chouquettes (an eggy breakfast pastry), haricots verts in walnut oil (tender crisp green beans sauteed in walnut oil), and tabouleh (an adventurous cous cous).  Let's just say I can't make the chouquettes any more....because I eat them ALL.  We've had the green beans three days in a row (and I'm eating some for lunch).  The tabouleh is resting in the fridge to go with dinner.  I'll let you know.  I don't hold high hopes for the kids liking it, but we will see.

My Rating:  3.5  Stars.  It was a good one time read that I won't likely read again...but will definitely be keeping for the recipes.

For the Sensitive Reader:  "I slept with my French husband halfway through our first date."  That is the first sentence.  I thought I'd get it out of the way.  The book doesn't get much more descriptive than that when it comes to things of a sexual nature.  Those sensitive to scintillating FOOD descriptions best stay away.

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