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Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris Hardcover – September 26, 2013
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Mah gladly dons rose-colored glasses in this gastronomic travelogue of regional French cuisine. She revels in the essence of summer captured in Provence’s fresh and creamy soupe au pistou; the gooey decadence of Savoie’s fondue; and the buttery, toothsome chew of Brittany’s buckwheat crepes, attempting to distract herself with the history of classic French dishes after her diplomat husband is called away from their new post in Paris for a yearlong assignment in Iraq. Another diplomat’s wife, Julia Child, is invoked throughout the book for guidance in French cuisine and in dealing with the unsettling feeling of playing second fiddle to a spouse whose job requires regular moves about the globe. The real joy of this book, though, is in Mah’s mouthwatering, bite-by-bite descriptions of the plates set before her in Parisian cafés, country homes, and hole-in-the-wall foodie hideaways. Francophiles will delight in the smattering of French words and phrases sprinkled throughout every page, and serious cooks may endeavor to follow the lengthy recipes for a signature regional dish included at the end of each chapter. --Amye Day Ong
"Mah admirably fits her research into easily digested bites, the reader's enthusiasm mirroring her own."
"By turns sweet, self-deprecating, humorous, and poignant, with questions of how we grow close to each other through food and curiosity, this memoir is a treat to savor."
"Mastering the Art of French Eating makes you want to be in Paris as [Mah] describes the delight of crusty baguettes spread with butter and jam, surprise glimpses of Notre Dame caught from the bus, nursing a glass of red wine in a cafe that has mirrored columns and a zinc bar. . . . the book has appealing honesty and vulnerability, overlaid as it is with the pain of her husband's absence. It will also make you very hungry.”
—Wall Street Journal
“Mah admirably fits her research into easily digested bites, the reader’s enthusiasm mirroring her own.”
—The New York Times Book Review
"A well-written entrée into French dining."
—The Daily Beast
"Consistently passionate and emotionally resonant, Mah’s prose brims with true love . . . A bighearted, multisensory tour of France."
"The author’s investigations into the importance of each dish to the people she meets are beautifully woven together with her reflections on culture, identity, love, and marriage, resulting in an enjoyable and thoughtful read that sparkles with humor. . . . This honest, funny, and eloquent memoir is sure to delight lovers of France, food, or travel."
"The real joy of this book . . . is in Mah’s mouthwatering, bite-by-bite descriptions of the plates set before her in Parisian cafés, country homes, and hole-in-the-wall foodie hideaways. Francophiles will delight in the smattering of French words and phrases sprinkled throughout every page, and serious cooks may endeavor to follow the lengthy recipes for a signature regional dish included at the end of each chapter."
"Whether you’re French or Francophile, a long-time connoisseur of French food or someone who’s just figuring out the difference between frites and frangipane, feasting through France with Ann Mah is a delicious adventure. Ann’s writing is lovely, her curiosity boundless and her good taste assured. Spending time with her in Mastering the Art of French Eating is a treat."
—Dorie Greenspan, author of Around My French Table and owner of Beurre & Sel Cookies
"Ann Mah dishes up a welcoming concoction, a good dose of French history, a personal, vibrant, enthusiastic picture of life in a country she adores, without apology. I am hungry already!"
—Patricia Wells, author of The Food Lover's Guide to Paris and Simply Truffles
"Excellent ingredients, carefully prepared and very elegantly served. A really tasty book."
—Peter Mayle, author of The Marseille Caper and A Year in Provence
“Ann Mah writes inspiringly about basic French dishes we thought we knew all about. She joins Elizabeth David in being a joy and an instruction to read."
—Diane Johnson, author of Le Divorce
"A tour de force through French cuisine, Ann Mah crisscrossed France, learning about all my favorite foods—from buckwheat galettes to the secrets of authentic cassoulet. Her personal culinary tale will have you packing your bags. But if you can’t make it to France, Ann offers delicious recipes, culled from experts!"
—David Lebovitz, author of The Sweet Life in Paris
“Ann Mah goes straight to the essential in this lively, mouth-watering book as she explores the foundations of French cuisine. She even goes where all before her have failed to tread—the wild country of andouillette—to tempt with her stories and her approachable recipes. Bravo!”
—Susan Herrmann Loomis, author of On Rue Tatin
"Like a bowl of homemade cassoulet, this book is warm to the touch. Ann Mah writes about her international experiences—and origins—with great sensitivity. She gives us a peek into French kitchens foodies will envy, and no Francophile could resist."
—Elizabeth Bard, author of Lunch in Paris
“From the peaks of the French Alps to Brittany’s buckwheat fields, Lyon’s bouchons to Burgundy’s wineries, Ann takes us all over France in pursuit of its culinary traditions. But at the heart of her story is Paris—and all the love, wistfulness and deliciousness found there.”
—Amy Thomas, author of Paris, My Sweet
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Top customer reviews
She organizes the book around a few different areas/cities she visited in France and pulls from each one a signature dish. Near the end, she fully tugs with our emotions as she sets out to visit Julia's old apartment building. This was the best chapter, by far.
Too much of the book, I think, was about Mah and her struggles with the fact that her husband was re-assigned as soon as they moved to France. She was therefore left to explore Paris and France on her own... the theme comes back chapter after chapter, and I believe placed too much emphasis on that aspect of her experience.
That said, Mah's book is well-written (she's a good writer) and it's also an easy read. But in the end, for me, the book was more about how to endure being apart from someone you love rather than French cuisine. That said, I look forward to trying her recipes.
Through her descriptions I feel like I am almost there.