Sunday, September 29, 2013

Toujours, Vive la France

Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in ParisMastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris by Ann Mah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anne Mah's food writing sings! This foodie memoir about France never falters when reminiscing about the food, Paris, people, and countryside of France. The personal memoir parts can be tentative, faltering, even at times whiny--reflective of the author's experience of a year spent alone in a new country without husband, friends, or family for emotional support and nurturing/nourishment. Her diplomat husband got a dream posting to Paris for a four-year stint, but then no sooner did they arrive and unpack, her husband was called to Baghdad for a year. What does a foodie do in this circumstance? Slowly but eagerly, start finding community through food. Food may be our homeland, but it is also how we discover and bond with the stranger.

The book's chapters are arranged by 10 regions of France, with a representative dish--its history, the author's discovery of its terroir, its variations, and a recipe for the home cook.  As the Anne Mah describes it, "...the link between history and place, culture and cuisine." Paris is itself a region and the author's home base. There are Troyes, Brittany, Lyon, Provence, Toulouse, Alsace, Burgundy, and Aveyron--not all of France--another book, I hope. Bistro steak, crepes, soupe au pistou--and seven more dishes to savor, to prepare or dream of preparing. The recipes are easy to follow, though some of them require many hours of preparation or cooking.

What Ann Mah discovered in France was that, "Separate from cooking, the very art of eating is in itself an art to master." Not only savoring the food, but sharing connection and community in a country that mandates, in law and culture, time for the pleasure of dining. As Julia Child (with her own itinerant life and diplomat husband) would say, "Bon appetit," to foodies and Francophiles.

I received a temporary e-galley of the title through the publisher and Netgalley. Netgalley reviewers are not paid.

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