Book Review: Flipping through pages of Parisian culture, delectables
By: Maria DiCosola
Everyone says Parisians are worlds apart from Americans, but no one ever states the reasoning of their argument. However,
Written in first person, this book and the anecdotes within it make for quite an entertaining read. Lebovitz himself is a quirky and humorous character. A chef who decides after losing his partner to move to Paris to study the food, the author perfectly portrays the oddities in Parisian culture. His life is easily enviable – he cooks desserts and mingles with locals all while casually writing a book about his experiences.
The structure of the book is simple: Each chapter is about an interesting aspect of Paris’s culture, followed by a personal experience he had regarding the culture shock, and a recipe or two to wrap it up.
He focuses on a wide variety of customs, from the epidemic of line-cutting in stores to their controversial healthcare system. One of my favorites was about how people in Paris never really serve or drink water, nor do they use the bathroom often or even have bathrooms in public stores. According to Lebovitz, there are 214 brands of water in France compared to 179 in America. So, he said asking a restaurant for water is the equivalent to asking for coffee at Starbucks.
While it has nothing to do with the story, he ends the chapter with a recipe for chocolate mole, chicken mole and carnitas because he has been trying to expose his naïve Parisian friends to Mexican food.
Most of the other recipes he features are more French oriented, such as chocolate mousse, thick hot chocolate made from scratch with dark chocolate slices, and chicken tagine with apricots and almonds.
His writing has shown me how much of an integral part food is in a culture. If I were to write a food book, I would follow his model because it gives the reader a better understanding of the inspiration for the recipes.
The writer uses a wide variety of puns and metaphors to liven his writing – as if his experiences aren’t lively enough. He scatters French words throughout the chapters with context clues so the reader can start to understand bits of the language. He is a very honest writer; he tells it like it is. He has no problem saying Parisians are lazy, but he makes sure he criticizes them respectfully by giving the context of their actions and the culture they are raised in.
The author collects all of the content for his book purely by just living in Paris, experiencing the culture, interacting with the people and, of course, eating the food. He perfectly depicts how food has such an influence in an area’s lifestyle. Just how a picture can say 1,000 words, a meal can describe an entire culture.
Lebovitz has written four other books: Room for Dessert, Ripe for Dessert, The Great Book of Chocolate, and The Perfect Scoop. He is also an accomplished blogger with a wide following of foodies, travelers, professional chefs and just ordinary people.
I highly recommend this book. It is both interesting and educational while being a great laugh. It is also packed with amazing recipes. I know he has sparked my personal interest to visit Paris sometime in my life, and I’m sure he will set fire to yours too.