"It's amazing how you can make the right decision for all the wrong reasons," Elizabeth Bard, Lunch in Paris
You can argue the opposite, which is truer to the way I've lived: It's amazing how you can make the wrong decision for all the right reasons. But let's not live with regret. Je ne regret rien! It's nasty, and one has to forgive oneself for making mistakes, gargantuan as they may sometimes feel. We're human after all, just hungry humans browsing the bookstores of life and art and time.
Speaking of which, while perusing the Food & Cooking section at my local Borders today, I realized I've had enough of reading about famous chefs whose faces and names have been played out by the media. I wonder whether these stars still take a slow or mindful approach to cuisine, or if they ever did. Or whether they're dominated by anything besides the need to make a bigger buck. And so, today, I went searching for the new name, an author I did not know that might have something fresh to tell me about the art of cooking and a place I'd like to visit -- in this case, visit once more.
Elizabeth Bard's Lunch in Paris, A Love Story with Recipes is pithy and delightful, immediately engrossing. If you love falling in love, enjoy romantic tales, have visited or wish to see Paris and dine on fabulous, rich, simple food, you'll want to pluck this off the shelf. Bard's adventures launch with her fateful first date, lunch with Gwendal, a Frenchman doing Ph.D. research on how to archive film and video on the Internet. Elizabeth and Gwendal proceed to his apartment to have tea and make love. The rest of the story is about the recipes Bard encounters as her romance with Paris and Gwendal unfold.
Gwendal introduces her to simple, yet provocative dishes: "Student" Charlotte, or Charlotte Aux Abricots (Ladyfingers), Pasta a la Gwendal, with minced vegetables olive oil, garlic and onion. Over the next months and years, Paris unfurls recipes and magic. There are infinite varieties of croissants, yogurt cakes, and of course chocolate desserts like chocolate souffle cake. There are lively descriptions of sidestreet cafes and delicate and insouciant meals. The experience of spending weekends with Gwendal, season after season, leads to the inevitable moment when Bard finds herself standing in her clod-hopper high school sneakers with the man of her dreams on a wintry Parisian street as he affirms simply and unequivically that he loves her and wants to marry her.
Parisian fare plays an important role through Bard's courtship and marriage, but after the melt-in-your mouth meats and fancy desserts, it all comes down to cheese. You can't talk about food in France without mentioning cheese. Among other things, the wedding party gets to relish a peppery Salers, goat cheese, and comte, which is a bit like sweetened Parmesan.
Bard, an ex-pat, awakens the reader to a Paris of dreams, where one encounters not only a variety of intriguing dishes, all of which seems to include, pepper, garlic, olive oil and butter, those staples of fine cuisine, but a unique assortment of friends too -- like the refined Katherine, the devlish Kekla, and the emphatically French, Axelle.
Lunch in Paris reminded me of a simple maxim that has held true for me over the years, that people who pay attention to the kinds of food they prepare and serve at home, who go out of their way to please and to surprise, also pay attention to the art of love. It only stands to reason that in the city of love, there is also extraordinary food.