When journalist Ann Mah’s 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, Ann’s 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 crispest of buckwheat crepes. And somewhere between Paris and the south of France, she uncovers a few of life’s truths.
Like Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French and Julie Powell’s 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.
This book was a double delight for me to read, and took me a while to finish. Not because it was slow-moving or plodding, but because at the end of each chapter there are recipes; recipes I just had to try out, ingredients permitting.
This is a novel, a travel book and a foodies paradise all rolled into the memoirs of the Author, and anyone who delights in reading any of these genres, either as a whole or separately will revel in this book. The Author describes her love of Paris and how it came about, and the joy she felt at knowing they would actually be able to live there for a predetermined amount of time. I fully related with her life of having to pack up and move every three years and, her excitement at going to a place that had been on her ‘wish-list’ for such a long time really spoke to me, as I am sure it will to every reader who lives a nomadic work connected lifestyle.
Like the Author, I am a Gallophile and love Paris. This made it especially easy for me to fall into the book, and experience with her the sights and sounds of the city; remembering that same awkwardness of speaking French to a native. Some of the areas she travels to outside of the city, I had not visited but through the skilful writing style of the Author I was there with her speeding through the countryside with my large baguette and wine bottle snugly secure in the back seat. Into her memoir, the Author deftly weaves pertinent histories of the regions we travel with her to, and this just adds more flavour to those wonderful recipes. This is a book that is both mentally and visually pleasing, not because it is jammed packed with travel and food photographs, but because the Author has described every detail of the year of the title with such depth, humour and courtesy, the reader has a clear image of what is taking place on the pages before them.
The recipes are delicious, and so easy to follow. However, some of them require ingredients that may be difficult for the reader to come by depending on their location; do not be discouraged by this as there are plenty more that can be made with ingredients on hand and have you longing to travel to their region of origin.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves to travel, eat regional foods or just wants a good read with a little extra included.