Last May I was in Israel visiting my family when my aunt recommended I read "The Sweet Life In Paris" by David Lebovitz. She told me she had been following his blog for years and she knew I would love his writing style and his obsession with chocolate.
A few months later, a friend who I consider my most accurate recommendation engine, also suggested I read the book. So, the next time I was in a bookstore, I picked it up.
Having just been to Paris in November for a friend's wedding, I was very excited to read about the author's perceptions of the City of Light. I was hoping I had been to some of the places he would highlight.
The book is made up of two types of narratives: David's impressions of the city and what it's like to live there as an American transplant, and his personal recipes for French classics. For years he was a pastry chef in San Francisco before making the move across the Atlantic.
One of my favorite excerpts is from a chapter called "What they say versus what they mean." David is talking about learning the ins and outs of French culture and he writes:
When they say "Non," they mean, "Convince me."
When they say "We do not take returns," they mean, "Convince me."
When they say, "It's not broken," they mean, "Convince me."
When they say, "You need a prescription for that," they mean, "Convince me."
When they say, "The restaurant is completely full," they mean, "Convince me."
When they say, "The restaurant is completely full," they mean, "We already have enough Americans in here."
Many of this stories talk about the language barrier. He was working in a chocolate shop, but was lacking some necessary French adjectives in order to communicate with customers. He describes:
I was also having trouble wrapping my mouth around some of the words, since my French accent is less than exemplary. Amande often comes out of my mouth as Allemand, so people must have thought we were selling chocolates filled with ground-up Germans. After I learned that, I no longer wondered why those chocolates weren't very popular.
Most of the book bounces between his quest to find his favorite ingredients in a foreign land, learning to cook in his teeny tiny apartment and of course, his adaptations to famous French recipes.
About a third of the way in, I started to get bored. There wasn't a clear story arc, the book just sort of jumps for anecdote to anecdote with no rhyme or reason. I am all for short stories, but this wasn't advertised in that way. There wasn't a steady build to a grand finale.
About 75% of the way through, I found redemption. Lebovitz writes a fantastic account of his meal with director and screen writer Nancy Meyers. Together they dined in the same Parisian restaurant where she shot Something's Gotta Give with Diane Keaton. This was hands down my favorite tale in the book.
For those who have been to Paris and know it well, I think this would be a fun read. If you're a great cook or baker, you will surely enjoy David's detailed recipes. He offers substitutes for hard to find ingredients, variations based on differing tastes and he even shares how long a dish will stay fresh in the fridge or the freezer.
Since finishing this book on Friday I have moved onto Jonathan Tropper's "This Is Where I Leave You," which I am loving.
What are you currently reading?
*Image courtesy of Goodreads.