I have this thing about cookbooks without photographs. I hate them. It's almost impossible for me to find cooking inspiration from plain text. Although it turns out, I can find cooking inspiration from plain text if it's prose.
Lunch in Paris is the first novel-cum-cookbook that I have ever read, and I am now open to suggestions on others please. Self described as a "delicious love story, with recipes," Lunch in Paris isn't going to win any awards (it's the literary equivalent of a low budget romantic comedy) but it is a lovely way to spend a rainy afternoon.
This autobiographical novel tells of native New Yorker Elizabeth Bard's struggle to adapt with French life after marrying her dream French fellow. It's not as sharp as Sarah Turnbull's Almost French or as witty Paul West's A Year in the Merde but it does offer some lovely insight into the French food scene, painting a beautiful picture of the way French culture revolves around food and drink.
I didn't feel any particular affection for any of the characters, but I wasn't annoyed by them either. It's a fairly surface level tale and in truth I have trouble sympathising with the culture shock of a silver spoon American who's gorgeous new husband is bankrolling her to do very little while living in Paris and swanning about the markets. Although to her credit, she complains infrequently and makes a great effort to assimilate - especially through native cuisine.
The best part was reading the descriptions of decedent French dishes an then discovering the recipe for them only pages later. Sure, this book is definetly light reading, but the meals are described with such passion, and with such detail, that it is easy to feel Bard's affection for the meals she describes.
The recipes presented are conveniently indexed in the back of the novel (which was the deciding factor for me when considering this purchase). Most of the recipes have a French base such as chocolate souffle cake (that Bard eats standing at the kitchen bench in tears with a spoon from the dish - just as I am likely to do), mussels with white wine and fennel or poached cod with wilted leeks and mayonnaise. Although the recipes on offer seem overly simplistic it is their accompanying tales that make the mouth water.
Also, note to self: perfect Mother's Day gift idea.
Lunch in Paris Elizabeth Bard (Harper Collins) RRP $35 (but I picked it up from Angus & Robertson in early March on special for $25) ISBN 978 0 7322 8878 5