Friday, May 22, 2009
The Sweet Life In Paris -- live it vicariously
When living in Paris is your day-to-day reality, it’s sometimes easy to take the place for granted. The out-and-out physical beauty of the city, the centuries of history and culture, the amazing food, the wonderful quality of life – it can all too easily be forgotten under the pile of gas bills, the fight you had yesterday with the cable guy or the bad taste left in your mouth after yet another old biddy pushed her way in front of you in the supermarket queue.
Because that’s the thing about living in another city for a long period of time. After a while, it stops being so intoxicatingly exotic and teeters dangerously on the brink of becoming pedestrian.
Which is why it is important to be reminded now and again of the good fortune I have to be living it large in the City of Light. And for exactly that reason, I feel compelled to issue un grand merci to my neighbour and fellow Paris-based scribe David Lebovitz for his excellent new book The Sweet Life In Paris.
If you’re a fan of Paris, a fan of witty anecdotes, a fan of good writing and most importantly, a fan of food, you won’t find a more satisfying read this (northern-hemisphere) summer.
Though he’s usually to be found edifying the faithful thousands who read his blog each week (www.davidlebovitz.com) with tales of gastronomic adventures in the world capital of food, David uses this book to reflect on the journey he has taken since moving to Paris six years ago.
Where other Paris memoirs ricochet from one well-worn cliché to the next, David’s keen eye, sustained presence among the French and determination to get under the skin of the city sets this book apart. We follow him as he volunteers at a local fish shop, works behind the counter of a chocolate boutique and infiltrates Paris’s usualy cloistered culinary community.
It’s a book, moreover, that shows the author’s deep affection for his adopted hometown. Sure, it rails against pushy Parisian grannies, perma-striking workers, awful French coffee and general aversion to customer service, but most of all this book is an ode to a city, a country and a culture that the world – like David - is unusually fascinated with.
It also happens to be one of the most mouth-watering reading experiences I have ever had. Packed with recipes and with entire chapters given over to the sensual description of French foodstuffs, The Sweet Life In Paris makes you hungry just reading it.
In the interests of disclosure, I should probably note that I’ve had the pleasure of breaking bread with David on several occasions. I’ve enjoyed his company at cafes and chocolate shops. I’ve even escorted the man backstage at the Lido and watched as he donned a series of showgirl feathered hats (in which he didn’t look too bad, it has to be said). He’s a lovely guy whose tiny kitchen down the rue from where we live seems to be constantly churning out freshly baked delicacies that he is only too happy to off-load onto the Showgirl and I. And so yes, I am a little bit biased.
But if you’re looking for a great read about this fascinating city we call Pareeee, then look no further. Bravo David!
(now where is that batch of cookies you promised me?)