Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Book Review: Lunch In Paris - A Love Story and Recipes

Elizabeth Bard was a twenty-something New Yorker on the fast track. Then after one innocent lunch in Paris with a handsome Frenchman.. and she never looked back. Yes, there are lots of "look what happens when an American moves to Europe!" memoirs out there (Ahem, Under the Tuscan Sun anyone?), but this one is particularly "delectable" because of its lots of amaaaazing French recipes. 
Braised Veal Shank with Fresh Muscat Grapes from Elizabeth's own Blog
I'm drooling just looking at this

In her first book, Bard tracks her relationship through meals — the pasta Gwendal made after they first made love, the sausage over which he first told her je t'aime, the poached cod served when she met his parents, and the smelly French cheese at their wedding. She includes recipes at the end of each chapter for those wanting to cook up a little romance of their own.

The story itself is charming and Bard has a wonderfully down-to-earth voice. As their relationship advances and she permanently finds herself in Paris to be with him, she encounters all the typical (but somehow never tiresome) dilemmas of an American in Paris. Although the mouth-watering recipes were a close second, this for me was the most intriguing part of the book. Her careful, detailed look at the differences between the two cultures not only made me appreciate France more, it taught me a little bit more of what it means to be an American. 

As anyone who has travelled extensively knows, there is such beauty yet intense frustration and confusion when being immersed in another culture. To give you a little amuse bouche of Elizabeth's experiences, here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
In France, people often show their power by saying no - by their ability to block things, to show that nothing happens without them. To close the store, if you like, whenever they please. In the United States, people show their power by their ability to say yes - to get things done in a hurry. To keep the store open an extra hour, just for you. 
One of the great gifts of an interculteral relationship is that when you fight, you never quite know if you are mad at the person, or at their culture: Is he really too bum-ass lazy to call back the band at 8 PM on a Monday evening, or is he just being FRENCH? Is she bombarding me with lists and timetables and questions about the color of wax used to seal the invitations because she's a manic control freak, or is she just being AMERICAN?
I know the real reason French Women Don't Get Fat. It has to do a lot with stern looks from your mother in law - and the annual return of le bikini
Let me ask you something. Are you reading this on the way to your spin-class? Are you late for your acupuncturist? Your life coach? Your shrink? That is four hours already out of your week, which the French replace with the realxing and replenishing ritual of a sit-down lunch
The question permeates throughout the novel: Can you develop a taste for the new without leaving yourself behind? As Bard navigates the ups and downs of life in her adopted country, she is forced to revise her standard recipes for love, pleasure, and success. Along the way, she introduces readers to bustling markets, bad tempered butchers, and heavenly chocolate shops through the eyes of an American turned Parisienne.

I think Ms. Bard sums up the essence of her adventures in love and cultural exploration in a quote from a personal interview:
We complement each other in a lot of wonderful ways. I think I gave him a bit of my American “Just-Do-It” attitude - the sense of possibility and living his dreams, and he gave me a sense of “joie de vivre” – the idea that happiness comes before ambition – or perhaps that happiness can be a goal in and of itself.
If you would like to experience a little joie de vivre of your own, I highly recommend Lunch In Paris: A Love Story and Recipes.  :)

Annnnd if you haven't jumped on the Kindle train yet..... please consider it. This thing is the greatest invention for book lovers since Guttenburg invented the printing press. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Kindle. Get one ... yesterday!


  1. K - Thank you so much for your thoughtful review of Lunch in Paris. EB x

    PS - "The Power of Myth" - girl after my own heart!

  2. Wow! The authoress herself! I'm so humbled! Your book is fabulous. I travel to Europe all the time and actually have studied in Paris and it's amazing how spot on you are about so many things! To top it off I was reading it during my recent trip to Germany and Italy, so the correlations were even more poignant on my end. I'm so glad you found your direction in a field that we all can enjoy! :) Continue with that savvy American 'can-do'-ness for sure and keep writing, you are wonderful!

    p.s. I know! Such a fascinating read.
    p.p.s. I just read your latest post about your husbands Vegas Paris Hotel bathroom adventures and literally laughed out loud haha :)