Book Review

‘Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris’ by Ann Mah

mtaofe amSTORY: The memoir of a young diplomat’s wife who must reinvent her dream of living in Paris—one dish at a time

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.  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 Timesbestseller 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.

REVIEW: This author has always loved food and enjoys writing food reviews for publications. When her diplomatic husband is assigned to Paris France for a three year assignment, they are completely thrilled. As the expat spouse of a diplomat, finding a job can be nearly impossible unless one chooses to apply for working papers and jump through all of the hoops involved. After settling in, Ann decides to write about a few of the signature dishes of France. Some of these dishes are: crepes, steak frites, salad Lyonnais, Cassoulet, Soupe au Pistou, Choucroute, Fondue and Boeuf Bourguignon. To be as thorough as possible, Ann travels to each region from which these dishes originate. While in each place, she meets with some of the masters, i.e., chefs and restaurant owners and even the growers, to discuss the history and preparation of these dishes and why they are indigenous to a particular region.

A huge fan of the famous Julia Child, Ann wanted to cook like Julia. Julia was also the spouse of a diplomat assigned to Paris in 1948. While there, Julia fell in love with French cooking and attended the Cordon Bleu. While working on a tiny stove in her equally tiny apartment, she mastered many French dishes and wrote a book entitled, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” which is now considered to be a standard of French cuisine.

The first year in Paris finds Ann alone and on her own as her husband has to leave on an one-year assignment in Baghdad to be then followed by completing his assignment in Paris. Ann describes the difficulties of loneliness and homesickness. Add to that the pressure to learn the French language and immerse herself into the culture of France makes for some trying times. However, her strength and determination to make a success of her time in this beautiful country sees her through.

I found this book especially appealing to me because I was also that spouse when my husband took a 6-year diplomatic assignment in Paris. I can certainly understand the many hurdles Ann faces because I did so as well. However, I also enjoyed seeing her become a stronger person as she learns to adapt herself to all of the changes in her life and learns to embrace the entire glorious experience.

If you have an interest in French food and of the history of the regions of France, I think you will also enjoy this book as much as I did.

Connie for b2b


1 thought on “‘Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris’ by Ann Mah”

  1. I really loved this book. So fascinating to learn about the origins about popular and delicious French dishes.

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