4 out of 5 stars
The first sentence in Elizabeth Bard’s food memoir, Lunch in Paris, is “I slept with my friend husband halfway through our first date.” From there I was hooked–and so was she. An American living in London, who meets a Parisian, never to return to live in the States again. Was it the man or the food? “The waiter slapped down my pavé au poivre. It was not a particularly impressive plate—a hunk of meat, fat fried potatoes piled carelessly to one side. But something happened as I sliced the first bite—no resistance, none at all. The knife slid through the meat; the thinnest layer of crusty brown opening to reveal a pulpy red heart. I watched as the pink juices puddled into the buttery pepper sauce.” Bard and this reader were swooning at this point!
Bard aptly captures what it’s like to live in a city and country with little knowledge of the language and eventually learning the ropes; visits to the farmer’s market and the butchers ends up with a mixture of English, French, and finger pointing. Finding friends, finding a job, life as we all know it is not as she knows it, with everything different and a struggle. But what she does have is cooking skills, and she learns how to make traditional French dishes and weaves entertaining recipes in each chapter. The recipes even are fun to read, and she carefully crafts each one with clear directions for even the novice cook. Along with cooking, Bard loving describes Paris and for the armchair traveler (and armchair foodie), this is a joy to read. It’s a romantic love story, filled with observations on French women, food habits, Paris, and even the unsexy themes such as the French health care system and buying real estate in Paris.
If I have one criticism for the book, if it can be called that, is I feel Bard may be on a different plane than perhaps her average reader as she was able to travel to the United States (and her parents to France) in what appeared to be several times a year. Most of the people I know don’t have that luxury of traveling to see overseas family once a year or more. Still, this was a fun journey to take and a life to live in for a little while.