“I’m not a voracious carnivore, but there’s something about being in Paris that makes me want to sink my teeth into a bloody piece of beef. Perhaps it’s the French paradox, the seductive theory that a diet rich in cheese, meat, and red wine actually lowers cholesterol. Perhaps it’s watching all those sexy French women purse their lipsticked mouths while slicing through a juicy chop.”
Anyone who knows me has no doubt what city I hold true to my heart. Those café-filled, clichéd streets of Paris. Searching for, and finding, that perfect croissant. Discovering a new allée. Being served an included apéritif before relishing a prix fixe lunch. Le sigh.
So when I was approached to receive a copy of Ann Mah‘s book “Mastering the Art of French Eating,” I jumped at the chance. I couldn’t wait to discover her “lessons in food and love from a year in Paris.” If I couldn’t be there to savor it all in person, at least I could live vicariously through Ann.
I’ve received and reviewed books before, and unfortunately most have been fairly blah, though sprinkled with tempting photos here and there. My fingers were crossed this one would live up to my Paris-obsessed expectations. Let’s just say … she had me at Chapter One – Paris / Steak Frites.
First of all, let me commend Ms. Mah on her courage to venture into new places meeting new people while at the same time testing out a new language. I’m sure this incredible drive and curiosity got her through the tough times of being unable to share it all with her beloved. I’ve been known to grasp onto the occasional adventure or two, but I know how difficult it is to open yourself up sometimes especially when a major change has somewhat pulled the rug out from underneath you.
From accounts of Paris’ La Villette to the stinky bits of Troyes’ andouillette to the creamy, sticky goodness of aligot in Aveyron, Ann’s love of good, real food shines through. It was pure bonheur reading her words, venturing from shop to restaurant to kitchen, soaking up the savory bits of everyday adventures and timeless pieces of history, while also dealing with immigration, quirky customs and the act and art of making friends in France.
I have yet to try the recipes noted at the end of each chapter, but reading them has given me incentive to get into the kitchen, and play, and rediscover these delicious flavors I miss so much … even if from my Louisiana oven.