In David Lebovitz’s book, The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City, Lebovitz treats us to his gift of sarcastic wit while exploring the city’s ironic and perplexing customs. Along the way, he shares some of his favorite recipes created and enjoyed there. This month a few fellow food bloggers and I, as a part of The Kitchen Reader, read The Sweet Life in Paris so we could share our opinion of the book with our readers and each other. Here are my thoughts.
As someone who has been fortunate to have visited Paris, I remember the three most important French words during my trip were Parlez vous Anglais. I found that most Parisians were pretty helpful once you admitted by this phrase that you were a helpless American. However, I’m sure we were taken around the block a few times during a couple of taxi rides.
Other memories from my trip were brought back while reading this book. One being the endless choices of water: “. . . bottle, or eau du robinet from the tap . . . still or sparkling . . . San Pellegrino or Perrier . . . Chateldon or Salvetat . . . Badoit or Evian . . . verte or hyper-bubbly rouge . . . Demie or grande?” And the fact that “Unless you specify, you’re likely to get the biggest and priciest of the lot”, and also that “Ordering eau du robinet means you may need to ask the waiter two – perhaps three – times before you get it, if you get it at all.” But then you must find a place to get rid of it!
Lebovitz also addresses shopping in Paris. From not being able to touch anything unless you’re going to buy it, to not being able to find a bargain. When discussing the most common place to shop for “everything” in Paris, the BHV, he brought to mind a certain American “stuff-mart” where I often encounter a similar experience. “I am certain the BHV has scouts who look far and wide, combing the world, in search of the least-helpful people they can find.”, he says. And when going there, states, “I enter with the assumption that no matter what it is I’m looking for, the BHV will have absolutely everything – except that one specific thing that I came to get.” Sounds very familiar.
And although he jokes about it, Lebovitz does make sense when he talks about how most Americans, when they travel to a foreign country, expect to be treated in the same way as in America: “Why don’t they have doggie bags?” “How come there’s no ice?” “What’s going to come alongside (that steak) (and can they change that?)”. I can imagine that living in a city constantly filled with tourists that demand to have things their way can cause the natives to develop a negative attitude toward them.
The Sweet Life in Paris is a really funny book written by an American who didn’t just visit, but has decided to live there, taking the bad with the good, and still keeping his sense of humor. Give it a read, and try a few of the recipes like this one for Oven-Roasted Figs.
Sweet and earthy, figs are a great late summer/early fall addition to your table.
Oven-Roasted Figs (Figues Roties)
from The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
makes 4 servings
- 10 to 12 (about 1 pound/500 g) fresh ripe black or green figs
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 2 to 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Stem and quarter the figs. Place in a baking dish that will hold them in a single layer and spoon the honey over them, then crumble the sugar over the top.
- Toss together gently, cover tightly with foil, and bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove the foil, gently turn the figs in the syrup, and cook uncovered for 15 minutes, or until tender.
You can visit The Kitchen Reader to find out what others who read the book thought.