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Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris

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Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris Cover

ISBN13: 9780670025992
ISBN10: 0670025992
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Excerpt

PROLOGUE

I left Australia hoping to cram a lifetime of adventures into one unforgettable year. Instead, I ended up with a new life. I’d taken one year’s leave from my job as a television reporter in Sydney to travel around Europe. If I didn’t go now, I never would, warned a nagging voice in my head. Though, at twenty-seven I wasn’t much interested in hanging around youth hostels. The idea was to immerse myself in fascinating foreign cultures, to work as a freelance journalist in Eastern Europe, which in my mind bubbled with unwritten, hard-hitting stories.

It was in Bucharest, Romania, that I met Frédéric. His English was sprinkled with wonderful expressions like ‘foot fingers’ instead of toes and he seemed charming, creative and complicated—very French, in other words. When he’d invited me to visit him in Paris, I’d hesitated just long enough to make sure he was serious before saying yes. Why not? After all, this is what travelling is all about, isn’t it: seizing opportunities, doing things you wouldn’t normally do, being open to the accidental?

That trip to Paris was more than eight years ago now. And except for four months when I resumed my travels, I have been living here ever since.

It was a city and culture I was familiar with—at least that’s what I thought back then. When I was a child, my family had toured France in a tiny campervan and my eyes had popped at the chocolates and the cheeses. At secondary school I studied French and saw a few films by Truffaut and Resnais, which had struck me as enigmatic in a very European way, although I couldn’t have said why. When I was sixteen we lived in England for a year and I came to Paris several times. In my mind, these experiences added up to knowledge of France and some understanding of its people. Then, a little over ten years later, my meeting with Frédéric drew me back, and when the time came to actually live in Paris, I figured belonging and integrating would take merely a matter of months.

Now, remembering my early naïveté draws a wry smile. The truth is, nearly all my preconceptions of France turned out to be false. It hardly needs to be said that living in a place is totally different from visiting it. And yet this blatantly obvious statement does need to be said, particularly about Paris, the most visited city in the world. A place I imagined to know after a few nights in a closet-size hotel room as a teenager and one summer holiday with a Frenchman sipping kir on café terraces.

At times the learning curve has seemed almost vertical. The social code I discovered in France wasn’t just different from the one I knew, it was diametrically opposed to it. For a long time, I couldn’t fathom the French and, to be fair, they couldn’t fathom me either. My clothes, my smile—even how much I drank—set me apart. During my first year, dinner parties turned into tearful trials. There I was, a confident twenty-eight-year-old with the confidence knocked out of me, spending cheese courses locked in somebody’s bathroom, mascara streaming down my cheeks.

It hasn’t all been tears and trials, of course. The truth is, if France failed to live up to some of my expectations, in other ways the reality has been far richer, a thousand times better than my clichéd visions. My work as a journalist has enabled me to meet people ranging from famous French fashion designers to master chefs. On a personal level I’d taken a headlong plunge into new territory as well. Put a very French Frenchman together with a strong-willed Sydney girl and the result is some fairly spectacular—and sometimes hilarious—cultural clashes.

If I had to pick one word to sum up my life in France, it’d have to be "adventure." Every moment has been vivid, intensely felt. No doubt many people who live in a foreign country would say the same thing. But there is, I think, something that sets France apart from many other parts of the world. I know of no other country that is so fascinating yet so frustrating, so aware of the world and its place within it but at the same time utterly insular. A nation touched by nostalgia, with a past so great—so marked by brilliance and achievement—that French people today seem both enriched and burdened by it. France is like a maddening, moody lover who inspires emotional highs and lows. One minute it fills you with a rush of passion, the next you’re full of fury, itching to smack the mouth of some sneering shopkeeper or smug civil servant. Yes, it’s a love–hate relationship. But it’s charged with so much mystery, longing and that French speciality—séduction—that we can’t resist coming back for more.

From where I write in Paris today, I see a foil shimmer of rooftops, a few orange chimney pots, quaintly crooked windows and lots of sky. Although by this city’s standards it’s nothing special, to me it is precious, this view. It makes me think back to a time when we didn’t have it, when we were living in a different apartment where I wasn’t nearly as happy. Those early difficult years in France seem a lifetime ago now, as though they were lived by someone else. So much has changed since then, including me, probably. The truth is, when I started to write this book I had trouble taking myself back to that time. I don’t know why it should have been so difficult. Either I’d forgotten or subconsciously didn’t want to remember or, being a journalist, I was paralyzed by the idea of writing in the first person. Probably a combination of all three.

For days and weeks, I sat staring at my rectangle of pearl gray sky. For inspiration I looked at old photos, read my early articles and Mum sent me all the letters I’d written from France, which she’d carefully kept. The memories came back gradually, growing sharper and brighter until I could see myself on that summer’s day almost eight years ago, excited but nervous, arriving in Paris in my safari shorts and flat, clumpy sandals, oblivious to the horror my outfit would inspire in any self-respecting Frenchman.

And suddenly it seemed as though it had happened only yesterday.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Rachelle Shanrock, December 28, 2013 (view all comments by Rachelle Shanrock)
"It was a near-perfect meal, not just because of the food, which had been exquisite, but also because of the restaurant's loving interpretation of place and culture and cuisine. Perhaps I was lightly tipsy on ambience and Champagne, but I thought I could read a story in some of the dishes."

This is a rather lovely book. It was a cookbook -meets history - meets memoir. There was more French history than I expected and sometimes it seemed a little out of place. But I enjoyed the times when she spoke about her own experiences in Paris and added a little bit of philosophy and optimism. I just got back from France less than 2 months ago, and this book made me realize how much I missed. There is always more to see in Paris and by reading this book I felt like I got to experience a little more of it.

It was a quick read and it made me smile and made me feel like I was in France, if only for a little while. I definitely recommend this book. It's a lovely little escape.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780670025992
Author:
Mah, Ann
Publisher:
Pamela Dorman Books
Author:
Turnbull, Sarah
Author:
Flinn, Kathleen
Subject:
Travel - France
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
20130931
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Cooking and Food » Food Writing » Gastronomic Literature
Cooking and Food » Food Writing » General
Cooking and Food » Regional and Ethnic » French
Featured Titles » Biography
Featured Titles » General
Featured Titles » Literature
Featured Titles » New Arrivals » Nonfiction
Travel » Europe » France
Travel » Travel Writing » Europe
Travel » Travel Writing » France
Travel » Travel Writing » General

Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$25.95 In Stock
Product details 288 pages Pamela Dorman Books - English 9780670025992 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
The memoir of a young diplomats wife who must reinvent her dream of living in Paris—one dish at a time

When journalist Ann Mahs 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, Anns 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 lifes truths.

Like Sarah Turnbulls Almost French and Julie Powells New York Times bestseller 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.

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