I heard of David Lebovitz in a book about food writing, and his writing was recommended along with a few other food writers for their inspiring styles. From there I found his blog, DavidLebovitz.com and then through our local library a few of his books. One of his books that I found was ‘Ready for Dessert‘ which is a lush and gorgeous cookbook with huge photographs (by Lebovitz as well) of ridiculously tempting sweets. The other was this book, ‘The Sweet Life In Paris” which are tales of his experience of moving to and living in Paris, after working for almost a decade at Chez Panisse in California. ‘Sweet Life’ also contains dozens of his recipes, including Double Chocolate Crepes, Chocolate Spice Cake and Salted Butter Caramel Sauce!
I do enjoy Lebovitz’s writing style which is funny and personal, self-deprecating and bitingly annoyed when describing some of his fellow Parisians. My first few chapters in I was enjoying the stories of the way of life there, and the odd and self-absorbed people of the city – and starting to believe that Paris is a place that I would not probably enjoy beyond a few days’ visit. He describes having to accept that people cut in lines constantly, in groceries, banks, etc. and they will not back down. In Paris while walking down the street you will be bumped, run into, run over, pushed along – and you survive only by becoming one of the pushers and shovers yourself. In Paris the customer is never right and is almost always a nuisance. (Fortunately for Lebovitz he is able to garner favor with many folks there by giving away copies of his books and pans of his brownies! Homemade, free food does work miracles.)
The more I read the more I grew amused (at Lebovitz’s expense) with his annoyances and even at times wondered at his decision to move there in the first place. From his descriptions it appears that the author has in his apartment a sort of island refuge from the city, where he stockpiles favorite American foods and ingredients he brings back in huge suitcases from the States, has a giant Italian espresso machine (coffee in Paris he says, is terrible) and exists in sweat pants and t-shirts (you can’t even wear these out of the apartment to take out the trash.)
I think this reaction is exactly what Lebovitz is after from his audience. ‘The Sweet Life In Paris’ is a funny tale of starting a new life in a completely strange environment that daily tests the boundaries of the author’s patience. Though, being surrounded by some of the finest restaurants, bakeries and chocolatiers in the world probably helps make up for that a little.