I can not say enough wonderful things about this book. I confess that I am a sucker for all things French, and any book that tells me about Paris, food and the French is a book I will treasure. I didn't read the chapters in order, necessarily, and that is what I really loved about it. Although there is a chronological time line, you can read it out of order and enjoy it just as much as if you had done it the way most people do. The chapters really stand on their own, and the writing was delightful. It was tender, sassy, and kind, but honest. Ms. Bard clearly loves France, but she doesn't hold back from offering critiques either. I like her honesty, and I like that it was tempered with affection and humor. These are the stories that a friend would tell you, and make you laugh and think about, long after the covers are closed, and the book is sitting on a shelf. This is not a book that will, or should, sit on a shelf. It is part philosopher, part lover, part friend, and part chef. I loved the fact that the recipes are generally simple and good, and things that the French themselves eat, and are not show off or Haute Cuisine. Ms. Bard fell in love with a guy and with France, and she got both. Hats off to her. She made me feel like part of the family with her stories; this book is infectious and really invades your consciousness, and makes you want to read it. I would definitely give her high marks for voice, style and content. The only disappointment with my copy of the book, was the binding. The first time I opened it, one of the pages nearly fell out. I felt that the publisher let us down by putting up with such shoddy workmanship. I love this book enough to buy copies for my daughter and daughter-in-law, but I will warn them to handle it with care! It does detract from the joy of reading when you have to handle a book as gingerly as if you were holding a baby. It's a real shame that the book wasn't put together better, because it is one that you will want to read and savor more than once.
I'm a francophile who devours anything and everything I can get my hands on that is about French culture. I was delighted to receive an advance copy of this book since it sounded exactly like the kind of book I love, one that combined two of my favorite pastimes -- food and France. While I enjoyed this book, I didn't find it very substantive, and for that reason would give it 3 1/2 stars.
While the book was interesting, it seemed much too self-indulgent in places. Memoirs, of course, are nothing if not self-indulgent, but Bard's recounting of her relationship with her husband seemed to draw out scenarios that didn't quite merit the attention that she gave them. I did enjoy the intermingling of her stories with the recipes that inspired each narrative, and found it to be a creative (if not original) play on the memoir genre.
The book itself is light-hearted and fun, although it is also tinctured with darker elements, such as Bard's revelations about her father's manic depression. Having lived in France for a year when I was about Bard's age, I could also relate to her descriptions of French culture and the French mode de vie. Overall, I would recommend this book if you're looking for a light read.
on June 17, 2010
I read this book as I love to take a free trip to France, and that the author did for me. I like to dine in France, and that she did---allowing my to vicariously experience restaurants and dining experiences, her images are detailed and wonderful. The recipes thrown in were a joy, and I even made some. The ones I made reproduced very nicely. I may try one or two more.
But, there was a major turn-off. It was cheapened by some chapters being a Sex-in-the-City romp. The first paragraph she tells how she slept with her husband on the first date. While this is ordinarily fine and can make for fun reading, it is not okay in a memoir. She insists she is not the type, but then the reader is repeatedly informed of the size of the authors breasts on way too many occasions for me to take her seriously as a grown up.
In one chapter,you are charmed by her sincere husband and her sincere emotions of falling in love with him, some lovely childhood memories, and I start to think what a lovely intelligent, sensitive person this is. Then, in the next minute, she is off for a wild Sex-in-the-City romp with her college friend, throws in some cleavage comments, has a wild party with fashionistas.
I love many parts of the book, but I am equally turned off by many other parts of the book. I was VERY ambivalent. This inconsistenty of a delicate, well meaning sensitive protagonist being young and going through some growth pains while living abroad was all good. The lovely images of France are all good. But, then the wow-girl-check-me-out-sex-in-the-city turns she takes,too-much-intimate-gratuitous personal exposure, makes this for me a very inconsistent bumpy experience. Quality, then Cheap Goods, Quality, then Cheap Goods. Finally, for me, it was not worth putting on my shelf, but belongs for me in the summer beach read category---on a day where the ocean is calm.
Her relationship with her husband seem to be used gratuitously. And since this memoir is mostly about them, this really is disappointing.
on November 28, 2011
There are so many wonderful books along the lines of this one, from The Sharper the Knive the Less You Cry, to David Lebovitz's The Sweet Life in Paris, and I have loved every one of them. So, I was really excited when I heard about this one. What doesn't sound good about a book peppered with food, romance and Paris? Unfortunately, this book failed to live up to my expectations.
Bard seems to wish to write about how the joys of life in Paris encouraged her to move past the goal-oriented value system that she learned in the U.S.A. However, she, or rather her ego, keeps getting in the way. I almost threw the book down in disgust when, within the first 50 pages, she not only referred to herself in the third person but used it as adjected, as in, "That's so Elizabeth." Ugh. Really? This is not an isolated incident. After that, the reader has the immense pleasure of hearing her reference to her Ivy League education, but nothing about what that experience was like. Then, the reader is repeatedly told that the writer is thin, while also being told that the writer can't fit into any of the average clothes sizes, and that the best way to deal with this is to eat more. The latter might have been more entertaining if the writer had had more of a sense of humor about herself. Again and again, these little bits of ego stand in the way of what probably was an enchanting time in her life.
Overall, I got the sense that this book really didn't have the strong hand of an editor in it. The book seems unsure as to whether it's a collection of stories with recipes (loosely) tied to them or the story of a woman's journey into post-college adulthood. When I was reading it, I wondered if the book was based on a blog, and the editor had just printed the whole thing out and not bothered to encourage any real sense of order.
I have secret fantasies of living in France, of shopping for food at the local market, heading over to the butcher and then whipping it all together in my quirky ancient apartment. But reality keeps me lodged firmly in my desert home, so I devour stories about other people living my fantasy with relish. Lunch in Paris is the perfect escape.
Lunch in Paris is the story of a New York gal falling in love and leaping across an ocean to live with the object of her affection. The story weaves back and forth between France, New York and the UK, between passion, food and fashion. Beautifully written and a pleasure to read, Bard manages to be both frothy and light, intelligent and observant. She isn't blinded by love (for France or her lover) and expertly slashes at bureaucracy and frivolity with equal humor.
My single complaint - and one that doesn't warrant a lower star ratings - was the recipes at the end of each chapter. I hate novels with recipes peppered in (except anything written by M.F.K. Fisher - the woman could do no wrong). I can never find a recipe when I am looking for it, it is difficult to reference a novel while cooking and it is so often unnecessary. This book is no exception. The recipes are delicious and easy to make, but they are totally unnecessary and often don't even relate all that well to the preceding chapter. Ah well, I'll just consider them to be an added bonus to a book well worth having all on its own.
Elizabeth Bard's Lunch In Paris: A Love Story with Recipes is marvelous entertainment. Not only will readers of Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes adore the author's immersion into the European way of life, the love story will delight...and the recipes will interest even non-cooks, including myself, with their fresh ingredients, and the joy with which they are prepared and eaten. If you recall any of the cooking or eating scenes in the film Big Night, where even the making of eggs was a joyous experience, I can heartily recommend this book.
Some of you may recognize the author's name from her Paris Notebook entries on the Huffington Post; indeed, some of them found their way into this book. Bard's upbringing may not have been that of the typical middle-class American, but her drive to succeed is something all of us recognize, and her struggles to find direction for that drive once she moves to France is something most over-achievers can understand. But it is her willingness to follow her dreams - first to England and then to France - that requires leaps of faith most of us would not make. And that's where the romance between her husband and herself takes the lead.
Bard's story brims with wry humor. It begins with the line: "I slept with my husband halfway through our first date" - and her husband-to-be first tells her he loves her after they've shared their first plate of andouillette - sausage made from the innards of pigs. After all, as she writes, "We had clearly passed on to a new phase in our relationship; the American girl had proven herself an enthusiastic eater of offal."
There's not just romance and good humor, though...the author illuminates basic differences in the French and American ways of looking at the world, from how we view debt and credit to how we view hard work and moving up the corporate ladder. And along the way, the author lovingly writes about the melding of her and her husband's families, cultural and language differences and all. To be more specific would spoil the book. Read it yourself...it's delicious.
on May 16, 2010
With the popularity of cookbooks and food memoirs, it seems authors like Elizabeth Bard toss recipes into their books just to get published or improve sales. Bard almost says as much herself when, after bemoaning through most of the book that she hasn't achieved the kind of success and recognition from others that she had considered her due, she lights on the idea of a cookbook as her route to glory. It's actually a pretty good idea: she seems to be a reasonably articulate writer, but without much of a story to tell; her life seems far more ordinary than she appears to think.
As someone who loves to cook, however, I don't think recipes should be just a gimmick. They should work. I admit that I have only made one of her recipes, but it is so spectacularly wrong that I am torn between annoyance and laughter that I even tried following her directions. I just made her strawberry rhubarb crumble. The oven temperature given was strangely low, but that I adjusted after it had barely started to cook in the time given. The ridiculous part is the crumble topping: there is so much of it that the topping is three times as thick as the layer of fruit. Also, the unfortunate inclusion of a tablespoon of cornstarch in the fruit renders it gummy and unappealing.
I'm giving her a star for being a pretty good writer, but I'm taking off one star for the ridiculous recipe I just wasted my time and ingredients on, another for her story being on the whole dull, and a third because her somewhat annoying personality combined with a far-too-healthy ego made reading the book feel like being in a pleasant place (Paris) but trapped with someone one dislikes. (I'm not counting the first star because Amazon gives that one automatically.)
"Not enough" that pretty much sums up this book. There were "not enough" recipes to make it a cookbook. There is "not enough" of a life to make it good as memoirs. And "not enough" of a plot to make it much of a story.
The writing is fine, but important aspects of a book are having a point and having an ending. I'm afraid this book has neither. Bard passes up natural ending points that happen during the course of the book for just stopping and, as near as I can tell, at the point of deciding to write this book. But even that isn't clear. You don't have the feeling that this book is something she was compelled to do at any point, nor do you feel as if she REALLY wanted to tell her story. That's what I mean by not having a point. If I have an on-going conversation about a friend in Bard's situation, that's one thing. But it isn't a book.
Books are constructs, they are, and this isn't a bad thing, artificial. They mold reality in ways that make for a good story and stories have endings.
It was pleasant, but there wasn't one recipe I felt worth trying, no incidents that were memorable, and it was just a way to pass some time. Perhaps wqith more practice and skill Bard will write a good book, but this isn't the one.
on August 3, 2010
A whiny professional student moves to Paris and frets about trials such as attending cocktail parties, not being able to find canned chicken broth, and working exhausting three-hour days at the Louvre (followed by a leisurely lunch out). When I got to the part about her stepfather taking out loans and paying her credit card bills so that she could maintain her Parisian lifestyle, I had to stop reading. Her petty gripes and sense of entitlement ruined what could have been a wonderful story about a cross-cultural relationship. Tant pis.
In her quest for an extraordinary life, self-described nerd Elizabeth Bard marries a Frenchman and moves to Paris. As a journal of her adjustment to her new circumstances Lunch in Paris is exasperating and self-indulgent as well as vivid and insightful. Ms. Bard's indictments of the French medical and legal establishments, analysis of the French culture of exercising the power of "No", and humorous acknowledgement that in the retail establishments of Paris, the customer is rarely right are well written and insightful.
It's too bad Ms. Bard isn't similarly gifted in self-examination. The first few pages were tremendously off-putting. She describes her first date with her future husband Gwendal, in which they retire to his apartment after lunch. Despite the pages of evidence she presents that she's not THAT kind of girl, she obviously was. That was way TMI for me, though I'm glad I kept reading.
Ms. Bard's Paris is not Julia Child's of My Life in France, nor is it Sally's of The Dud Avocado. This Paris has warts and lots of them. The pleasures of going to the market and of preparing meals from the freshest of ingredients and her domestic happiness are overshadowed by the language barrier, loneliness and almost insurmountable cultural differences. FWA, she calls it. France Wins Again. The writing is very personal, and Ms. Bard eloquently describes her feelings in the various situations in which she finds herself, though at times I wanted to shake her.
Ms. Bard describes her struggles with endearing frankness, even when the self-portrait is unflattering. Toward the end, she describes a game in which she embarrasses Americans on the metro that comes across as mean. Likewise, her lack of understanding of her New York family's sensibilities after 9/11 is unintentionally ironic; it smacks of the snobbish ethnocentricity she's had difficulty with herself.
Lunch in Paris is at its sparkling best when Ms. Bard exercises her journalistic skills and keeps herself out of the story. The many recipes are adapted for American kitchens though inclusion was not strictly necessary. Ms. Bard is not a professional cook, and the dishes she describes have been done better elsewhere. Still, I made her Better Than French Onion Soup last Sunday and greatly appreciated her tip (courtesy of Cook's Illustrated) to roast the onions in the oven.
Lunch in Paris is uneven, a little patronizing and not particularly groundbreaking, but it is interesting, and a good, quick read. Whatever her personal quirks, Ms. Bard is a very brave woman, and I hope she achieves her extraordinary life. Four stars for courage, three for content, rounded up to four.