The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz offers anecdotes about living in the city of lights as well as recipes to inspire your inner chef. Lebowitz, a pastry chef from San Francisco moves to Paris and while settling in experiences a series of humorous adjustments to Parisians and their lifestyle.
His very first experience with the painter working on his tiny apartment for over two weeks is sprinkled with hilarious antectdotes, though you feel for Lebowitz who is at his wits end when the painter shows up every day to repaint some hidden corner or the bottom of a door. Likewise, his quest for a long-stay visa is an effort in futility where he needs a bank account in order to get his visa, but to get a bank account one needs an electric bill which can’t be obtained unless you have a visa! He visits most banks in Paris where everyone refuses to open an account for him until the day when he also brings a copy of one of his cookbooks. On discovering he is a pastry chef and oogling over the pictures the banker opens an account for him, and with that Lebowitz unlocks the keys to understanding one of the French complexities.
On its culinary side the book explores classic French pastries and foods with fairly easy, straightforward recipes. From Plum and Rasperry Clafoutis to Tomato and Sourdough Bread Salad there are many mouthwatering options. There are even some lower-fat versions of classics like Tarte Tatin (caramelized apple tart) and a Pâté that uses diced cooked apples instead of mounds of butter. Lebovitz substitutes tough to find ingredients with ones easily obtained in the US, since he writes primarily for Americans.
He also goes on to explain why so many French think Americans are rude. After reading more about their culture you can easily see the glaring differences too. Just one example is the practice of saying ‘bonjour’ to every salesperson upon entering a store and ‘au revior’ when leaving which is expected, and if you combine that with dressing poorly, asking personal questions, and carring in your take-out coffee from another shop you will be considered extremely rude.
The Sweet Life in Paris is an excellent book for those about to embark on a trip to Paris, or for people looking take a humorous escape while cooking some terrific French recipes.
©Christina Kay Bolton
The Sweet Life in Paris, David Lebovitz, Broadway Books, 2009.