Paris is a city synonymous with romance, aesthetic beauty, and fine food. It’s no wonder the intellectual, artistic, and literary elite have flocked to France‘s capital for centuries. However, according to American-born pastry chef David Lebovitz, they’re not the only creatures to be encountered if one spends any time of consequence in the City of Light. In his book, The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City (March 2011, Broadway Paperbacks), Lebovitz discusses all manner of minutiae concerning life in Paris: from negotiating nasty shopkeepers to public urination and laissez-faire house painters. A celebrated chef and food writer in his own right, Lebovitz juxtaposes the ills and delights of the city with lust-inducing recipes, appropriately suited for the topic of each chapter.
Unlike Karen Le Billon, who wrote of the stoic-yet-charming-in-their-own-way Brittany farmers in her book on convincing her North American children eating stinky cheese and weird vegetables like their French counterparts, Lebovitz (like a true Parisian) makes no apology or excuse for the citizens’ behavior; he (lovingly) skewers them and moves on. Like Jane Goodall among the gorillas, he observes Paris from an outsider’s perspective, and isn’t shy about sharing the frustrations and triumphs he experiences along the way. Careful not to betray any hint of nationalism for either his adopted or original homeland, he speaks frankly about what works in France (healthcare) and what doesn’t (union workers) in the midst of charming anecdotes about wooing bankers with brownies and finding excuses not to host visitors.
Having complained about Parisians too much, and one might wonder how the author can even stand such a place. It is important to note that when he’s not busy explaining the frustratingly exhausting French bureaucracy or why the French prefer to mop their bathroom floors after every shower instead of buying shower curtains, Lebovitz’s escape is the city’s celebrated food, whether it’s market bought and cooked in a tiny apartment kitchen (and cooled in the bathtub) or shared with celebrity movie directors at restaurants made famous in film, it’s clearly enough to balance the urban ennui.
The Takeaway: Witty, warm, and worthwhile, The Sweet Life in Paris gives readers an inside look at one of the world’s great cities, warts and all, from the enticing perspective of a culinary veteran. Available in Trade Paperback and E-Book from most major booksellers.
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