Subtitle: A Love Story with Recipes.
As a European who has lived in the USA for many years, it was fascinating to read the culture shock experiences of someone who did exactly the same but the other way around. This is a fun book to read on the beach or on a short flight – easy to read, light and entertaining. Featuring the memoirs of an American woman who married a Frenchman, it tells of her life during the time she was getting accustomed to living in Paris — and the fabulous food she encountered there.
As a bonus, many of the recipes she learned to cook are sprinkled within the pages. Don’t let the subtitle put you off; it isn’t really a love story as such but in some places is laugh-out-loud funny as the author finds that life in France is (to say the least) not in the least what she was accustomed to being brought up in New York.
Let me give you an example. She buys sandals in Paris and then decides that she doesn’t need them so tries to return them to the store. Despite having been in France for quite some time, she hasn’t mastered the language and the etiquette so is horrified to discover that, unlike New York, goods can’t be returned just because the buyer has changed their mind.
This ‘disaster’ sends her into the depths of despair which means that she has to make a transatlantic call to her mother, and to a friend, and then has console herself by eating chocolate. Yes, as the author writes ‘the world was ending over a pair of shoes’. So very twenty first century American 😉
You’ll follow Elizabeth’s adventures in Paris from the moment she meets her husband-to-be. Along the way, you’ll read all about the culture shock she experienced in her new life. And Elizabeth wasn’t a young girl, she was in her late twenties when she met Gwendal and moved to France.
But nevertheless, it’s fascinating to read how an ‘entitled’ American woman from a well-to-do background was baffled and perplexed by the European life on so many levels. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself laughing out loud at the way she finds herself living a life that was totally at odds with her upbringing in the United States.
And it was a privileged upbringing. She’d been expensively educated, she had enjoyed vacations abroad and believed – like so may of her generation – that she could be or do anything in the word she wished. She discovered that this was a myth when she moved to Paris.
Self centred and spoiled, she had to adjust to a completely new life and a totally different set of values. For the first time, she realised that she was not universally admired and feted. In fact, she came down to earth with a huge thud.
Moving to Paris to be with her new man, she experienced her version of ‘poverty’. For example, she had to manfully cope with an apartment with no central heating ‘merely’ a space heater, she described the picturesque produce market as a ‘shantytown’ and was conscious that in the looks department she couldn’t match up to the chic, slim Parisienne women.
The author is obsessed with food. When she describes meals cooked by her, her husband or her friends, she handily gives the recipes at the end of the chapter. No, I haven’t tried any of them yet but several sound tasty, for example, the goat cheese salad with fresh figs or the wild salmon with dill and cucumber.
Others however are a little strange such as the bizarre noodle pudding or the spaghetti sauce that includes lots of dried herbs and garlic powder (especially when fresh herbs and garlic were readily available at the ‘shantytown’ market nearby). But the majority seem delicious – I intend to try the champagne cocktail as soon as finances will allow!