Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Sweet Life in Paris - David Lebovitz

Books written by former Chez Panisse chefs are ubiquitous. And while part of me finds this annoying, the other part of me keeps reading them. In my recent quest for new recipes, and my sadness that I haven't lately been able to travel much, David Lebovitz's book seemed exactly what I needed. A pastry chef, Lebovitz (like so many others) traveled to France and fell in love with Paris. But, instead of pining away from afar, he actually packed up all his belongings and moved there. The Sweet Life in Paris is an account of his new life - all the tricks he learns about settling in among the natives, and the favorite recipes that keep him sane while doing so. Levovitz's observations are ones I've often read before in other memoirs about the American life in Paris - most notably (for me) the idea that the French are appearance obsessed and particular about dressing up and looking their best always - even to take out the trash in their own apartment building. This, among other reasons, is why I could never live in France. But, I did appreciate Lebovitz's observations about French women and their love of chocolate, as well as how not to offend the French when you only speak English. He is quite funny and doesn't take himself too seriously - though he clearly places a great deal of importance on fine cooking and dining. Each of his chapters includes several recipes that go with the story he's telling - few of which actually consist of French food. I tried out a couple recipes that turned out really well - and were not at all difficult to make for an amateur cook like myself. I loved the tomato-bread salad and chicken tangine with apricots. I also made a very easy recipe for chocolate yogurt snack cakes, which turned out a bit dry, but were quite tasty with some vanilla ice cream and strawberries. I do like Paris, but what I really love is this encouragement to savor friends, food, and life. I will remember this lesson every time I return to one of Lebovitz's recipes.

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