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Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris

by Ann Mah

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-670-02599-2
Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

An American diplomat’s wife finds sweet solace in Parisian culture and cuisine.

It had been Mah’s (Kitchen Chinese: A Novel About Food, Family, and Finding Yourself, 2010) childhood dream to live in Paris, so when her husband accepted an extended assignment to France, she was ecstatic. The typically nomadic lifestyle of a foreign serviceman can be tough on a spouse, however, and when the author found herself alone in the City of Light after her husband was reassigned to Iraq, she was flummoxed. Despite her trepidation, Mah—whose predicament frequently mirrors that of diplomat-wife–cum-chef Julia Child—exuberantly writes of wandering around Paris “conscious of my American accent and Asian face” yet bravely immersing herself in its regional cuisine, which alleviated her loneliness and satiated a blooming curiosity about the luscious food of France. Mah savored the cuisine of 10 different French regions, beginning by sinking her teeth into clumsily ordered but impeccably prepared steak frites, then tackling headier fare like Andouillette. Threaded throughout are anecdotes on Mah’s Chinese-American childhood, her often difficult life as a diplomat’s wife, and the connection between French cultural history and its food. The author lingers over these stories as lovingly as the scrumptious food set before her. Recipes round out each colorful and mouthwateringly described segment as Mah travels to the Brittany region searching out crepes, Provence’s chunky vegetable soupe au pistou, and the Savoie staple, fondue au fromage. Consistently passionate and emotionally resonant, Mah’s prose brims with true love—not only for her adventures in and around the fragrant Parisian marketplaces, but also for daily life sharing delectable food with her husband and rediscovering herself during his lengthy absences.

A bighearted, multisensory tour of France.