Good Reads: “The Sweet Life in Paris”-by David Lebovitz

April9

Whilst spending almost a month in Thompson this “spring” teaching cooking and hospitality, I did a lot of reading (when I wasn’t prepping for classes).  When I travel, I always over pack, not clothes but books.  I am always concerned that I will start something and not want to finish it (I give the writer 100 pages to hook me) and then where would I be, miles from home and family without a best friend aka a book?  Now that I have discovered the Kindle app on my tablet though, bulky book packing is a thing of the past.  I am not sure that I will allow on line reading to replace my beloved books (besides I still have a stack waiting for me on my nightstand) but for traveling, Kindle is the ticket.

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One of about ten titles that I plowed through was this ditty.  David Lebovitz is a food blogger and photographer that most persons in this field are aware of.  His style is sophisticated and humorous at the same time, noticing and commenting on the subtleties of life in a candid manner.  The sub-title to this book is “Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious and Perplexing City.”  This excerpt is from the section of his book where he explains, how it was to be the he moved to Paris.

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I spent almost a year traipsing around the continent after college doing nothing in particular except learning about European cultures, primarily by pulling up a stool or chair and eating what the locals ate.  During that time I made it through almost every country in Europe and tried whatever local delicacies were to be had: oozing raw-milk cheeses in France and hearty, grain-packed breads in Germany; Belgian milk chocolates that when sniffed, could transport you to a dairy farm in the countryside; and crispy-skin fish grilled over gnarled branches in the souks of Istanbul.  And of course, lots of buttery pasties and crusty breads smeared with plenty of golden butter in Paris, the likes of which I had never tasted before. Page 4 Kindle version

Fortunately, the European style of cooking was gaining a foothold in northern California, and there was a new appreciation for fine foods and cooking du marché: buying locally produced foods at their peak of freshness, which was a daily ritual in Europe.  It seemed like common sense to me, and simply the right way to eat.  So I packed up and moved to San Francisco, just across the bay from Berkeley, where an exciting culinary revolution was simmering.  And I hoped cumin-scented desserts weren’t a part of it.

Shopping the outdoor markets of the Bay Area, I discovered farmers who were raising things like blood oranges with tangy, wildly colored juices and tight bunches of deep-violet radicchio, which people at the time assumed were runty heads of cabbage.  Laura Chenel was producing European-style moist rounds of fresh goat cheese in Sonoma, which were so unfamiliar that Americans were mistaking them for tofu (especially in Berkeley).  And viticulturists in Napa Valley were producing hearty wines, like Zinfandel and Pinot Noir, which had a great affinity for the newly celebrated regional cuisine, which was liberally seasoned with lots of fragrant garlic, branches of rosemary and thyme, and drizzled with locally produced olive oil-a big improvement over the bland “salad oil” I grew up with.

I was thrilled-no astounded-to find the culinary counterparts to everything I had eaten in Europe.  I savored the hand-dipped ultrafine chocolates of Alice Medrich at Chocolat, which rivalled those I had swooned over in swanky French chocolate boutiques.  I’d line up daily for a boule of pain au leavain that Steve Sullivan would pull out of his fired-up brick oven every morning over at Acme Bread, and was ecstatic to find many of the pungent cheeses I remembered so fondly from Europe stacked up at the Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley, just across from Chez Panisse. Page 5-6 Kindle Version

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If you have lived or traveled to Paris you will appreciate David’s perspective of the Parisians-amazingly formal and stylish, they ride their bikes in business suits and tear into baguettes while walking down the street.  They take a while to warm up to “Americans” (i.e. anyone who lives in North America) but were helpful and accommodating when D and I visited, going on five years ago.

Kath’s quote: “Parisians are always in a big hurry, but are especially frantic if they’re behind you. They’re desperate to be where they rightfully feel they belong: in front of you. It’s a whole other story when you’re behind them, especially when it’s their turn: suddenly they seem to have all the time in the world.” -David Lebovitz

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Love-that is all.

 


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