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Hachette Book Group
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Dinner Chez Moi: 50 French Secrets to Joyful Eating and Entertaining Kindle Edition
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|Length: 184 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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Top Customer Reviews
What the cookbook is: An afterthought addition to a French themed gift basket full of wine and cheese.
What the cookbook is not: Sure of what it is.
Who this book is best suited for: A young woman looking for a light escape from university finals. Or the beginner cook.
Three words to sum it up: Médiocre at best.
Bard describes her past-self as a typical American (because we all love Kraft singles and General Tso's chicken) who's done a complete 180 since moving to France. There, she's found a love for fresh, seasonal, and unfamiliar ingredients. She speaks to writing a book for people in the states who are trying to find a similar love in their own lives and kitchens. Though that's mentioned in her intro, it is soon apparent that the book's purpose is not clear--I couldn't quite figure out what it was trying to do.
Is it meant to be a listicle?
Bard lists 50 'secrets' for why French cooking and lifestyle is preferable to the American way. Each secret is an ingredient, piece of equipment, or cooking/serving suggestion. Something about the written descriptions under each feels pretentiously bright and enthusiastic, and don't seem to be contributing very much. Such as: "Although celery root may look like Frankenstein's brain, it is among my favorite French discoveries." I couldn't help but wonder if the top 50 list is better suited for Buzzfeed.
Is it a memoir about living in France?
Throughout the book, Bard uses personal anecdotes and life lessons she's learned from the people in France but offers little to no insight. She does the exact opposite by using insipid metaphors instead. Like this one: "Even with the rise of hypermarchés--giant American-style supermarkets--the butcher remains an important local figure. Mine is at once alluring and reassuring, like having a cute doctor. He gives me the confidence to try new things, like rabbit, which I would never buy under cellophane."
I'm not sure I understand what that even means. And then there's this one: "Like a red bra under your business suit, [using cinnamon with meat and vegetables] changes everything, even though you might be the only one who knows it's there."
Some might find these quips funny or endearing. I couldn't help but find them distracting and they feel like, in some ways, desperate attempts by the author to relate to her readers.
Is it a diet book?
I got exhausted reading about eating habits, banished ingredients (snacks, condiments, sugar, etc), and small portions. To be honest, I felt a little like I was being chastised for occasionally wanting a little Duke's mayonnaise spread on my turkey sandwich or wanting a Reese's peanut butter cup after a bad day. "This is France, so of course you are entitled to your indulgences...invest in bars of 70 percent dark chocolate. But act your age and leave the candy for the kids." I'm not saying American diets and food habits are not without their problems, but I think it would have better served Bard to do more guiding and less chiding. I'd like to have seen her describe why French food is better for its quality than for its benefit to one's waistline.
Or is it a cookbook?
While nontraditional in the sense that it dips its toe in all the things listed above, it's definitely an intro-level cookbook. I tested the Crevettes et pois chiches aux épices, or Spiced Chickpeas with Garlic Ginger Shrimp. I chose to test it because it promised to be fast. And it was, which I appreciated. However, in this particular recipe, the directions are formatted as one big paragraph versus individual steps. I found myself hunting for what to do next.
Bard advises to cook the 'chickpeas [until] they start to make a sound like popcorn.’ Mine didn’t make popping noises, so they burned. And her direction to cook frozen shrimp until they 'are pink and just cooked through. (This should not take long)’ is very unclear. I’m an experienced cook, so I know when a shrimp is 'cooked through,' but the audience for which it's written may not. Perhaps this is Bard's attempt to be more casual and conversational versus technical in her instruction. Burned chickpeas and semi-raw shrimp aside, the flavors of the recipe were lackluster.
In the end, it's safe to say Dinner Chez Moi doesn't offer very much that is significant. Maybe Bard could have done more if she had focused on just one idea for her book. I'm sure there are women out there (perhaps fans of her previous books) who this book will speak to, but I'm afraid I'm not one of them.
Disclosure: I received a copy in advance of the official release date for the purposes of an honest review.
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