Thursday, September 19, 2013

Non-Fiction Review: Mastering the Art of French Eating

When journalist Ann Mah’s diplomat husband is given a three-year assignment in Paris, Ann is overjoyed. A lifelong foodie and Francophile, she immediately begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a year-long post—alone. Suddenly, Ann’s vision of a romantic sojourn in the City of Light is turned upside down. So, not unlike another diplomatic wife, Julia Child, Ann must find a life for herself in a new city.

Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris

Mah, Ann (2013). [Genre: Memoir, Food, Travel]

Goodreads|Book Depository

I received a review copy of this title thanks to Pamela Dorman Books. I received no other form of compensation and all opinions are my own.

I think I've mentioned my love of French memoirs before. . . I've already read and reviewed several classics of the genre this year. Ann Mah has big shoes to fill here. Thankfully, she does it masterfully.

Mah's story parallels that of Julia Child in many ways, as she follows her diplomat husband to Paris. Mah cleverly acknowledges the parallel from the outset, which gives the book a tone of humble respect towards those that have gone before it, rather than attempting to overwrite the multitudes that have already written about the life of a foreigner in France.

I love the conversational tone of Mah's writing. It sets the reader at ease and it almost feels like you are listening to her talking to you as she moves seamlessly from nuggets of French history, through a personal anecdote and back to the classic French dish that she was talking about in the first place. It gives the book a lightness, without being frivolous.

Personally I also loved the tidbits of French language that Mah threw in often. My own comprehension of French is good, but by no means academic (it's what I've picked up from time in France and very much relies on 'feel' of what something means). Hubby is fluent, so it was great fun for me to be able to share the book with him as I constantly leaned over to confirm that I'd translated something correctly, or question an unknown word. Mah's love for her own husband shines through her writing and I think this and her similar initial reliance on him to be translator made me relate to her as a narrator.

Then of course there's the food. The descriptions are not held back on. . . . . it made me want to jump on a plane right then. I may have even sent a text message to my husband saying 'I want tartiflette.' Droolworthy to say the absolute least. The recipes that accompany each dish/region themed chapter are also a nice touch.

To be honest. . . the major fault with this book is that I want more. More regions! More food! More anecdotes! It's just such a genuinely pleasurable read. I'm looking forward to recommending it to other francophiles.

4/5 Stars.

Mastering the Art of French Eating is released September 26th.

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