Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard

Today has been eventful. I spent the earlier part of the day in Portland, sitting quietly in Mom’s office waiting for her to be done with work so that we could go to William-Sonoma at the mall (I’ve never been there). A Chinese woman talked us into buying very sparkly hairpins from a kiosk. Then we drove home and, on the way, stopped to pick up my bike from the shop. I rode that the rest of the way home, stopping for a short time to visit my newest friend, Pauline, who is 86 and lives down the road from me. She’s a very sweet lady and her kids don’t visit her, so I do instead. After that I biked to the library, but halfway there I realized that there was something very wrong with my bike. The tire was on loose. As soon as I tried to take it up a hill, it tilted and started rubbing against the frame. I was pissed, and I walked the bike the rest of the way to the library. It’s there now, locked to the bikestand, until we can borrow someone’s truck and pick it up.

This was all very stressful because my plan was to got the library via bike and return via bike and for the entire excursion to take no more than an hour, since I had two hours before I had to meet with my teacher and go meet my observing expert for my astronomy class. I got my brother to pick me up from the library, and half an hour later I was in Readfield with my teacher and we were on our way to Norridgewock, which is a good hour’s drive or so.

For those who don’t know, I’ve been taking an astronomy class this semester and it is finally drawing to a close. This class has been completely kicking my butt and I have not enjoyed a second of it, and now it’s almost done. Tonight I went to meet a local expert who has a private observatory and I had to prove to him that I could find constellations and things… I actually did much better than I thought I would do. Looking in the night sky, I was able to find Ursas Major and Minor, Leo Major (Leo Minor is an annoying bugger who continuously evades me), Corvus, Auriga, Cassiopeia, Corona Borealis, Bootes, and Hydra. Kind of. Hydra snakes across the entire annoying sky and I personally find it almost impossible to follow, especially with light pollution.

I am so tired.

Now, this past week has been school vacation for us here in Maine, and I haven’t baked that much because I’m trying to be good or something, but I’ve been in a very foodie mood anyway, which is likely why I got through this book so fast.

This one’s been in the pile for at least a couple months, I think. I bought it at the same time as I bought Cleaving, if that helps you put it in perspective. I was in a very foodie mood that way as well, which of course made me daring enough to buy a book I’d never read before. Gasp!

I know.

Not only another foodie book- but another memoir as well! I’m getting predictable or something. But actually, as I read this one, I was kind of stunned by how amazingly relevant it was to my life.

I just turned on my hyper playlist to wake me up enough to get into this review. Okay, here we go.

I really enjoyed this book, but it’s not one I’ll recommend to people because it’s very slice-of-life with no real plot. It’s about this woman, Elizabeth Bard (yar), who took a trip to Paris one summer, had lunch with an attractive French man, and then never left. Okay, she did leave, but ultimately she wound up in Paris, married to her attractive French man. From this point (page four or so), the book is about an American adapting to living in Paris- getting to know France, as she says, one meal at a time.

Is it ironic that I keep reading foodie books about food I can’t pronounce?

My current life’s goal is to live in Ireland- there’s even a culinary school there I want to go to, that I need to save the money for- and more than one person has kind of looked at me funny when I explained that situation. Ireland is not exactly known for it’s haute cuisine. I sort of brush them off and say that gourmet food exists everywhere, but as I was reading this book I was kind of like, “This, this is why I don’t want to live in France.”

Now, that’s not entirely fair, since I had nothing against France before I read this book and I still don’t, but it definitely doesn’t seem like the place for me. Artsy, sure. Foodie, duh. But also kind of…. elitist. And this is the part where I mention that I personally have never been to France and my only experience with true French people was unbelievably pleasant and wonderful, but this is the impression that I got from the book, which is what this space is for talking about.

Elizabeth’s husband, Gwendal, explained to her that when he was in grade school and he told a teacher what he wanted to do when he grew up, that teacher told him that the job was impossible to get and would not make much money anyway, and actually told him he couldn’t do it. Gwendal, raised French, chose another job with which he would be able to earn more money, leaving his dream behind. To an American raised with a “follow your dreams” attitude, even if those dreams lead you to a wacky culinary school in Ireland, I actually couldn’t believe that teachers would discourage children from what they want to do.

Another thing about France is that the women there are very petite and healthy and if you’re big-boned, they think you’re fat. That was the response Elizabeth got, anyway, and she explained that she had never even had body issues in America, the country geared towards helping teenagers develop body issues and eating disorders. Even if I were to turn my lifestyle completely around and love all of the fat on my body, I would not be skinny enough to not have French women look down on me, and I definitely don’t need that kind of pressure all the time.

The third and final thing is that, in all of the books I’ve read about French food, this is the first one where the cuisine has actually seemed intimidating. It’s been unfathomable, unpredictable, even baffling, but this is the first book with recipes that I actually felt incapable of succeeding with if I really tried, you know? I mean, I could probably punch out an aspic, with a little effort. I would never want to, but the process makes sense to me. In this book, there were a few recipes which I would like to try, but for the most part every meal in this book is a big ordeal for a bunch of people really meant to impress.

I’ll try these, at some point- if I really want to be able to cook, I can’t run away from every recipe free of pasta and shrimp. Try new things! Yes. Tomorrow. Because I am very tired tonight.

This was a very good book for people interested in other cultures, and food, and love. And also moving to a new country. Like I said, relevant to my life, more than a little. Goodnight, all.

Published in: on April 23, 2011 at 12:48 am  Comments (11)  
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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Having been in Paris I can definitely agree that it’s elitist, which is why if I were ever to return to France I would go to the country and not Paris. It’s pretty but it’s very not me.

    Somehow as soon as you mentioned the fact that Gendal was discouraged from a dream of his I KNEW you would bring the school thing up. So yea, maybe you’re becoming predictable, but at least you’re consistent with your morals ^^

    Not sure I’ll ever read it, but I’m glad you liked it πŸ™‚ books are meant to be enjoyed after all. I need a new book to read THAT I CAN GET FROM THE LIBRARY IN THIS COUNTRY, BEFORE YOU RECOMMEND ME A LIST πŸ˜‰ I’ll look into it. Might read some Bradbury while I wait for my books to arrive from Janie.

    • The school thing is a very important issue to me, as you are well aware. I won’t push any books towards you, but perhaps if you could just bear my list IN MIND as you browse the library? That’s basically what I do for you, and look how far I’ve come! I actually recommended War for the Oaks to someone yesterday. πŸ˜›

      • I don’t mind if you recc me books but you’re in a foodie stage lately and I really don’t want any of those πŸ˜‰ I’m still seeking out Water for Elephants but no one has it. Might have to buy it *le sigh*

      • Use my rec page. There’s only one foodie book there.

  2. Actually, you are getting predictable. I suggest you stray away from the norm. Mystery, maybe?

    Ohmygod it is 2:09am and I am commenting x( Why can’t I sleeeeeeeeeeeep???

    • Read Psychoshop, woman. That’s deviating from the norm like nothing ever seen for you πŸ˜‰ Thanks, Emma, for agreeing.

      Or The Host. It’s vague sci-fi but with romance. It’ll ease you in slowly ^^

      *totally jacking comment*

      • I’ve ordered The Host, it’s on it’s way, breathe.

    • My next book is…. another foodie memoir. I COULDN’T RESIST, I’M SORRY, YOU’LL SEE WHY. But after that I can read something TOTALLY DIFFERENT. I have a couple of fantasy thrillers in my pile, and I’ve got something dramatic coming in at the library. At some point. Everything I’ve asked for recently is on hold. x_x

  3. Paris does not equal France. When we were in Alsace, in a city, no less, the food was all amazing breads, cheeses, and sausages. Roasts. Very simple, honest food.

    Also, it’s not ironic that you’re reading about foods you can’t pronounce. Remarkable. Interesting. Curious. Not ironic.

    Also, it is a characteristic of French schools that they see themselves funneling folks towards the career’s they are best suited for — channeling talent is a valid goal of an educational system. However, one crappy teacher does not condemn a whole system.

    Well done with the astronomy thing. You did better than you thought you would. See, THAT’s ironic.

    • It might be true that one bad teacher isn’t the whole school system, but the way she wrote about it, it did sound like that was basically the case. Most of the French people she encountered, including Gwendal, were doing menial work because it would be impossible for them to get themselves higher. When Gwendal began his own business, with her encouragement, people already started looking at him funny for trying to do better. They thought that he was out of his place, especially because he was only thirty- too young to be making good money. Elizabeth said that in France, the way to get higher is to be the third generation in your family to work in a particular business. All of Gwendal’s coworkers were “sons of” or “grandchildren of” other people who had also worked in the company.

      On the other hand, if France’s schools are trying to get kids to jobs they would be good at, that’s not a bad thing. It’s probably better than American schools, which gives a cookie-cutter education to every student that passes through it’s halls. But I wouldn’t want to live somewhere that doesn’t give me opportunity, you know? Or tells my kids they can’t do what they want.

  4. […] They can either have a very storylike quality, and read like a novel- Julie & Julia, or Lunch in Paris, for example- or they can read like someone telling their story, which is what this was like. Julia […]

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