The memoir of a young diplomat’s wife who must reinvent her dream of living in Paris—one dish at a time
"Excellent ingredients, carefully prepared and very elegantly served. A really tasty book."—Peter Mayle, author of The Marseille Caper and A Year in Provence
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 Lights is turned upside down.
So, not unlike another diplomatic wife, Julia Child, Ann must find a life for herself in a new city. Journeying through Paris and the surrounding regions of France, Ann combats her loneliness by seeking out the perfect pain au chocolat and learning the way the andouillette sausage is really made. She explores the history and taste of everything from boeuf Bourguignon to soupe au pistou to the crispiest of buckwheat crepes. And somewhere between Paris and the south of France, she uncovers a few of life’s truths.
Like Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French and Julie Powell’s New York Times bestseller Julie and Julia, Mastering the Art of French Eating is interwoven with the lively characters Ann meets and the traditional recipes she samples. Both funny and intelligent, this is a story about love—of food, family, and France.
I had this book on my iPad for a long time. I had started reading it and then wandered off as I so often do. However, I realized I had this while on my recent riverboat cruise in France, so I decided it was the perfect time to dust it off and finish it up.
I was actually on the outskirts of Lyon when I picked the book back up just in time for the chapter on Lyon. Lyon is known as gastronomic hot spot in France. Their claim to fame are small restaurants that were started by women catering to working class people. They are called “bouchons”. They still exist and are considered some of the best places to eat. I appreciate this book for explaining that they still feature tripe heavily in their meals. Vegetarian-friendly is not a concept most of these have grasped. A few days later I was standing in old town Lyon turning in a circle looking at all the bouchons.
Whispering to the husband – “We aren’t eating anywhere that says bouchon.”
Him – “Why?”
Me, muttering like just saying the word would manifest it in front of me – “Tripe”
Him – “What?””
Me – “It is sort of like restaurants who claim they are Family Restaurants in the U.S.”
He understood my theory that any restaurant that claims that title is using recipes from some old lady who cooked meat and potatoes without any spices and believed that the way to cook vegetables is to boil them until they give up. Also, the soups are totally made with meat broth and if you order vegetable soup anyway odds are 50/50 that there will be unexpected chunks of meat in it. Yes, I am a vegetarian foodie snob.
I would recommend this book for anyone who likes reading about local food traditions in combination with a memoir. She decides to write this book to distract her from the fact that she’s been left in France alone for a year. They just moved there. She knows no one. You see her personal growth over the year as she reaches out of her comfort zone to make friends.
So what did we eat in France? Stay tuned for that post in a bit.
FOREWORD BY LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA AND LUIS A. MIRANDA, JR.
The true story of how a group of chefs fed hundreds of thousands of hungry Americans after Hurricane Maria and touched the hearts of many more
Chef José Andrés arrived in Puerto Rico four days after Hurricane Maria ripped through the island. The economy was destroyed and for most people there was no clean water, no food, no power, no gas, and no way to communicate with the outside world.
Andrés addressed the humanitarian crisis the only way he knew how: by feeding people, one hot meal at a time. From serving sancocho with his friend José Enrique at Enrique’s ravaged restaurant in San Juan to eventually cooking 100,000 meals a day at more than a dozen kitchens across the island, Andrés and his team fed hundreds of thousands of people, including with massive paellas made to serve thousands of people alone.. At the same time, they also confronted a crisis with deep roots, as well as the broken and wasteful system that helps keep some of the biggest charities and NGOs in business.
Based on Andrés’s insider’s take as well as on meetings, messages, and conversations he had while in Puerto Rico, We Fed an Island movingly describes how a network of community kitchens activated real change and tells an extraordinary story of hope in the face of disasters both natural and man-made, offering suggestions for how to address a crisis like this in the future.
Beyond that, a portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to the Chef Relief Network of World Central Kitchen for efforts in Puerto Rico and beyond.
Chef Jose Andres has developed his theories on food relief first by working with a homeless shelter who used restaurant left overs to feed people and then expanding their process after the earthquake in Haiti. The biggest test so far of his small non-profit came after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.
His ideas are simple:
Find a working commercial kitchen and chefs. He started in a friend’s restaurant in San Juan.
Source the ingredients locally to avoid delays and to let businesses in the supply chain start to rebuild. In Puerto Rico he used the normal suppliers that restaurants would use.
Make a few simple dishes that can be made in huge quantities. They started with a stew, pans of chicken and rice, and thousands of ham and cheese sandwiches.
Use local food trucks to deliver food to the hardest hit areas. Also partner with whatever group is going into areas and have them deliver food. Among his best delivery teams in Puerto Rico was Homeland Security.
Open other commercial kitchens in strategic areas around the disaster area and repeat. Throughout his time in Puerto Rico they used a convention center, school kitchens, culinary school kitchens, and a church.
One of his major complaints about the food situation in Puerto Rico was that the groups who normally handle this in disasters on the mainland decided that it was too hard to get food to the island so they didn’t. The Red Cross for example, didn’t bring in the Southern Baptists and their mobile kitchens to cook like they normally do so they didn’t have any food to deliver. (I had no idea the Southern Baptists have a whole relief cooking operation despite going to a Southern Baptist church for four years. Never heard of it.) Food and water distribution was not listed as a priority for most groups.
When food was getting distributed it was MREs. These are prepared military food packets and they can get you through a few days but you don’t want them long term. He was also angry that water was being given in bottles only. He campaigned for tanker trucks of water to be taken to towns and let people fill their own containers instead of adding all the plastic waste to the environment. That idea didn’t get taken up.
A lot of this book is about his fight with FEMA. He wanted a government contract to pay for his supplies. He had started ordering food and supplies on a handshake with the distributor with no idea how he was going to pay for it. At their peak they were spending over $50,000 a day on food. Government contracting is a slow business that is doubly hard in a disaster. He talks about contracts that were given to people who never delivered food. The husband was a government contract person (not with FEMA). He listened to some of this part and talked about the other side. After disasters, FEMA contractors are apparently reviewed and taken to task for working too quickly, for not getting bids even if there is only one supplier in the area, etc. Careers get ruined because people were trying to do the right or fastest thing in an emergency and now there is a lot of trouble trying to get anyone to do those jobs and those who remain aren’t likely to take risks. Things are just going to get worse.
This is a good review of what happened in the disaster from the point of view of an outsider to the government. His ideas are definitely worth listening to and I’m interested to see where his nonprofit, World Central Kitchen, goes from here.
The rain in Spain doesn't mainly fall on the plain…
Brits abroad Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina need more than the sweetness of churros with chocolate dipping sauce to save them from their unsavoury states of affairs.
Cue Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera, the town's flamboyant flamenco teacher! But can she really be the answer to their prayers?
One thing's for sure: the Costa del Sol will never be the same again
This book tells the story of British people behaving badly in Spain.
Belinda is on the run with her husband Jez. They are living on the yacht that is all they have left after their business collapsed in England, probably because of her husband’s shady dealings.
Julia lives with her husband and daughter. She’s the type of ex-pat who refers to all other foreigners as immigrants and is angry that people in Spain want her to speak something other than English.
Laura lives in a super wealthy English enclave with her husband and mother and children. She spends her time lunching with other wives and is bored out of her mind.
Georgina has been dumped in Spain after a bad breakup and an even worse rebound fling. She’s working in a bar and has just learned that she is about to be kicked out of her housing.
These four end up joining an unorthodox flamenco class in a small town. The first lessons involve learning to step out of your comfort zone. A lot of this happens around eating churros. Most of these women are horrified at the idea of eating anything with so many fried carbs covered in chocolate sauce. But each little act of rebellion against the lives that they are living leads to larger steps until their lives are changed forever.
There is an element of magical realism in this story. The flamenco teacher Carmen is able to determine exactly what push each of them needs. She’s a mysterious figure. You never learn much about her. She never even teaches them to dance. They can just magically do it perfectly. This fits into the stereotype of the “exotic” person who teaches white people to fix themselves and then disappears, presumably to go help others.
I never really warmed up to the characters, except for Laura. She realizes that she is living in Spain and not some English colony. She starts to want to get out more and learn some Spanish and interact with the real country. She moves away from the overwhelming fakeness of her life. I wanted to back away slowly from the other characters. Even as the story progresses and you are supposed to start to feel for them I couldn’t get over the horribleness of how they are first described.
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Author Bio – Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing. As a co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls – www.theglasshousegirls.com – she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One). She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative ‘drops’! Costa del Churros is her third novel with Crooked Cat Books, following on from the hit sensations, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar.
Social Media Links – www.isabellamayauthor.com Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/ Instagram – @isabella_may_author
STARBUCKED will be the first book to explore the incredible rise of the Starbucks Corporation and the caffeine-crazy culture that fueled its success.
In STARBUCKED, Taylor Clark provides an objective, meticulously reported look at the volatile issues like gentrification and fair trade that distress activists and coffee zealots alike. Through a cast of characters that includes coffee-wild hippies, business sharks, slackers, Hollywood trendsetters and more, STARBUCKED explores how America transformed into a nation of coffee gourmets in only a few years, how Starbucks manipulates psyches and social habits to snare loyal customers, and why many of the things we think we know about the coffee commodity chain are false.
How did a country where people were generally satisfied with instant coffee become a nation of people who order things like 185 degree, non-fat, no whip, double caramel venti macchiato with an extra shot of vanilla?
How did a specialty coffee roaster in Seattle transform into one of the most common shops on Earth?
Starbucked is the story of how a few people who really cared about decent coffee started to spread the word, became super successful, and then lost part of what made them successful in the push to be ubiquitous.
One of the things that Starbucks pushed early was the idea of “the third space.” It is a place that isn’t home or work where you go and spend time. It is encouraging people to go hang out at a coffee shop. I don’t understand that. I hate being in a coffee shop. Sometimes my husband wants to go and hang out and read. I don’t get it. Why go hang out in uncomfortable chairs around a lot of other people when you can just stay home and read? I won’t go to a Starbucks unless there is a drive through (something executives fought hard against – almost as hard as they fought against Frappucinos).
This book was published in 2007 so some of the data may be out of date but it is still interesting to read the story of how Starbucks became successful.
Why do they put stores close together? Quick answer – marketing, convenience, and shortening lines.
Does Starbucks coming into a town kill local coffee shops? Quick answer – usually no.
Is the spread of Starbucks around the world the death of regional differences or just giving consumers what they want?
I also learned a lot about the history of coffee. I know about the difference between arabica and robusta beans now and how that ties in with imperialism. I understand terms like shade grown, free trade, and bird friendly.
If you are a Starbucks fan or if you aren’t, there is a lot of great information here about how coffee is grown and harvested, roasted and brewed, consumed and loved by millions.