Destination: Paris, France
Book: The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
David Lebovitz found he could sling ink around as well as he slung pastry in the kitchens of the Bay area (San Francisco). I’m so glad. I know he was a wonderful chef, but we need more entertaining food writers.
When his personal life took a turn for the worse, Lebovitz moved to Paris for a new start on life. We learn in the newest book, The Sweet Life in Paris that his credentials as a chef get him into the kitchen of some Paris restaurants and his expertise with chocolate earns him a non-paying job behind the counter of a fancy chocolatier. But Paris and Parisians present enough challenges to keep the reader laughing through the 29 chapters of this book as Lebovitz tries to adjust and acclimate, to the self-centered citizens of Paris, to the tiny kitchen in the tiny apartment, to the buzz-off attitude of clerks.
This chef is about as far out of the closet as you can get…lusting after the muscular guys who deliver his dishwasher…constantly fretting about Parisians who dress more fashionably than the does (even the policemen Sacre Bleu!) Therefore, although I found his hints about Parisian life helpful, I may take some of them with a grain of salt (Kosher or sea salt preferred).
When I travel to France, I will remember to say ‘Bonjour!’ to shopkeepers before launching into my demands for merchandise. I will expect to feel crowded, because he explains that American’s sense of personal space is tres grande compared to the pushy (literally) Parisians. I like the suggestion to ask ‘Where are you from?’ instead of the American ice breaker, ‘What do you do?’ (Come to think of it, the Italian language CD I listened to, stressed the “Where are you from” question, too.)
On the other hand, I am really not going to be concerned if somebody frowns at my wrinkled t-shirt and my husband is NOT buying a pair of pointy-toe shoes.
The recipes at the end of each chapter (50 in all) of the book, not only sound delicious but they are presented with clear directions and helpful notes about ingredients that may be substituted, and how to pull off complex moves. Lebovitz even puts a list of sources for specialty foods in the back of the book. I appreciate these practical touches. I also appreciate the list of his favorite cafes, food stores and patissieries and you can bet that list will go with me to Paris next year.
The frequent mentions of chocolate–did I say ‘mentions?’–more like worship–had me popping in to the kitchen for a bite of chocolate between chapters. I considered passing the book to a friend, but could not get all the chocolate smears off the pages.
Although the narrative portion of the book could have used some editing to avoid repetition, The Sweet Life in Paris succeeds as a culture guide, as a memoir and as a cookbook. I did not want it to end–but he has that covered, too–he has a blog. And did I mention that you’ll be giggling as you reach for the chocolate.
On Twitter recently, Lebovitz wondered if the Internet has made source material at the end of the cook book obsolete. What do you think?