I love memoirs, I love travel, and I love eating. And when they’re all combined into one book I love them even more. So it’s no surprise that I enjoyed reading Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love From a Year in Paris by Ann Mah.
When Ann and her husband move to Paris for his diplomat job it’s not all sunshine and daisies. Soon after arriving in the City of Lights, Ann’s husband has to go on an assignment to Iraq for a year and so she finds herself suddenly alone. To console herself, Ann turned to her other love – food. She traveled to various regions of France to try their signature dishes and learn about their history from the locals.
An experienced food writer, Ann did careful research on each dish and region. When bookstores are filled with many other memoirs set in Paris alone, I thought Ann’s foodie angle on her story was refreshingly unique. With some familiar and not so familiar dishes including steak frites in Paris, crepes in Brittany, soup au pistou in Provence, and beef bourguignon in Burgundy, I learned so much about these delicious recipes and their historical significance that I might not have otherwise known about had I not read the book. Of course, the chapters are organized by dish and region and at the end of each chapter the reader gets a recipe to make the dish on their own.
What I loved most about the book though was the central message that food can offer wonderful experiences and bring people together. Much like Julia Child was alone in Paris while her beloved Paul was working as a diplomat, so too was Ann and they both found relief from the solitude by cooking and eating food and it led them to meet fellow foodies and eventually new friends.
I couldn’t agree more about the power of food to bring people together. When I’m at home, my favorite thing to do is go out with my friends to a new restaurant trying as many plates as possible and having long, leisurely conversations. And when I travel to a new city, I come prepared with a list of must-try cafes and restaurants offering something tasty I can’t get anywhere else. And if I’m lucky, I get to share a meal at a table with new friends for an unforgettable experience. Food has always been my favorite part of traveling and personally, I think it’s one of the best ways to truly get to know a place. Especially when you’re on your own like Ann. Food is comfort for the soul.