Review: Lunch in Paris, by Elizabeth Bard

Lunch in Paris
Lunch in Paris: a Love Story, with Recipes
by Elizabeth Bard

When I picked up Elizabeth Bard’s wonderful foodie memoir, Lunch in Paris, I’m not sure what I was expecting. I mean, I knew the story of a young American woman in Paris wasn’t going to be about the side effects of diet pills or overspending with credit cards, but I think I was expecting something more like Julie and Julia.

What I got was sort of Adam Gopnik with food. This memoir begins at lunch, quickly moves to the author’s then lover’s (now husband) flat, and then into the kitchen before going back to bed. As I do, she associates food with highs and lows in her life, and has a recipe – familiar or French, sometimes both – for every milestone in her life. Her tales of going to the market are completely envy-inspiring, and her description of standing in her tiny kitchen licking the knife after making a flourless chocolate gateau are drool-worthy.

Bard is a journalist, by trade, of course, so it helps that she already knows how to hook a reader. I’ve never read any of her magazine writing, but I love her writer’s voice in this book, and really hope she does more like it. Soon.

And yes, I have tried at least one of the recipes.

Goes well with: a dry cappuccino and a single square of dark chocolate

Mini-reviews: Three by Elin Hilderbrand

I’ve been reading a lot of Elin Hilderbrand’s work this summer. In fact, I think I now own all of her Nantucket novels, though I still have at least three left to read. These novels, which are not a series, but are all set on the island of Nantucket, are easing my yen for the beach the way the best weight loss pills help you shed pounds safely.

Here’s a brief wrap-up of the last three Hilderbrand novels I’ve read:

The Castaways

The Castaways is the story of four successful couples, all friends for years, who refer to themselves collectively as The Castaways. When one of the couples dies in a tragic boating accident, secrets about the intertwining relationships among the surviving six people then come out. This was a deliciously dishy novel about affairs of the heart and the flesh, and it’s much more satisfying a read than I thought it would be.

Nantucket Nights

Nantucket Nights starts out being a story about female bonding, when three long-time friends meet for their annual ritual of Midnight Swimming, off a remote stretch of beach, after the summer season is officially over, but one of them doesn’t come back from the swim. All three women, Val, Kayla and Antoinette, are distinctly different but still strong personalities, but I thought the mystery element of the plot was a bit predictable.

Summer people

Summer People is the most recent novel I’ve finished reading, and while I enjoyed it, it felt a little unfinished. While the adult storyline is a little weak – that of Beth grieving over her dead husband while being confronted almost daily with her former lover, a year round Nantucket resident, as opposed to she and her family who are summer people – the teen storyline is a little meatier: Beth’s twin teen children, Winnie and Garrett each deal with grief and first love during their summer, Winnie with Marcus, the son of her dad’s last client, and Garrett with his mother’s ex-lover’s daughter. Like Nantucket Nights, this novel includes an unwanted pregnancy story, and the pair leave me suspecting that author Hildebrand is anti-choice, but despite that, her stuff is wonderful summer reading.

Goes well with: Fresh caught saltwater fish, grilled, with summer veggies, and either lemonade, iced tea, or beer.

Review: Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea
Three Cups of Tea
by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

I initially picked up Three Cups of Tea some time last year, in the same shopping trip that included picking up a couple of different anti aging creams for my mother, having my hair done, and spending some time alone with a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich at Barnes and Noble. I didn’t actually read it until recently, however, because it got lost in my house – so lost, that I actually picked up a second copy thinking I’d never purchased the first!

I’m glad I finally read this book though, because the story is beautiful. I mean, I disconnected a bit in the first third of the book when author Greg Mortenson, whose story this is, was living in his car to save money so he could get back to Pakistan, but by the time I got to the end of his book – which is really just the beginning of his legacy – I was completely invested in the man and his mission.

For the five people who haven’t read it, Three Cups of Tea is the story of an American mountain climber who fails to reach the summit of K2, becomes severely ill during his descent, and gets lost in a remote corner of Pakistan, where local villagers take him in, help him recover, and essentially adopt him. As thanks, he promises to return and build a school where the young women of the village can be educated. He eventually makes good on his promise, first building a bridge, then the first school, then heading a foundation with a mission of building more schools in Pakistan, all for educating women and girls, while still being respectful of local religion and customs.

And to top it all off, this is all taking place at the very beginning of the Taliban’s rise to power.

While, at times, my not-so-inner snob found her skin crawling at the less-than-pristine conditions of Mortenson’s living arrangements, I finished the book with tears in my eyes. I feel this book should be required reading for everyone, everywhere.

Goes well with: Tea and flat bread.