Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

I am not generally a big reader of non-fiction, but occasionally I come across something special like this one: The Sweet Life in Paris by famous pastry chef and cookbook author David Lebovitz.  Lebovitz was named one of the Top Five Pastry Chefs in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Chronicle and has been featured in numerous magazines and news papers.  He has written seven cookbooks and his latest, My Paris Kitchen, was named the best cookbook of the year by Amazon.

The Sweet Life in Paris is more memoir than cookbook as Lebovitz shares with us all he has learned since he followed his dream to pick up and move to Paris.  The writing is both informative and funny.  An American living in Paris has much to learn and he is happy to share his lessons with his readers.  Did you know there is a right way to eat a banana?  And no, it really isn't the way you do it.  Lebovitz describes the painstaking way Parisians eat their bananas with a knife and fork, slice by slice.  Then he says, "I admit that I still eat bananas like my primordial predecessors, but only in the privacy of my home.  Outside of the house, though, I avoid fruit.  It's too stressful."  He tells about the dangerous adventure that can be walking down a Parisian sidewalk.  At first he was very confused by the way it seemed the other people were aiming to run him down.  As he adjusted to life in The City of Lights, he learned that yielding was the problem.  Now he barrels down the street as if he belongs there.

It took Lebovitz a little while to learn the ways of the city, but don't ask him if he's fluent in French.

When people ask, "How long did it take you to become fluent in French?" I respond, "Become fluent?  Even the French aren't fluent in French."  To prove it, there's an annual Dicos d'Or, or a dictation contest where French people compete against each other to see who can best comprehend and write down what's spoken to them- in their own language!

This book is filled with hilarious anecdotes and hard lessons learned.  It is also filled with an amazing number of places one must visit in Paris.  If I ever make it back, I will be headed straight to Patisserie Viennoise for the thick hot chocolate "topped with a completely unreasonable amount of billowy whipped cream".  And then there are the recipes.  There are over fifty recipes for delicious-sounding dishes included in this book and each one is accompanied by a story.  I can't wait to try the Chocolate Macarons and the Cheesecake.

Think of this as a memoir or a cookbook or a travel guide, but any way you think of it, you will enjoy it.  I may never move to Paris, but this book certainly sparked my wanderlust.

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