The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious adventures in the world’s most glorious—and perplexing—city, David Lebovitz. Broadway Books 2009. Looking for books that focus on food but are much more than a collection of recipes is fun, and I often come across some entertaining stories that make me laugh, long to cook, and remind me of my own issues around food. This is such a book. Lebovitz had visited Paris in the 1980s and always dreamed of living there. After the loss of a life partner and a nearly two-decade career in the United States as a pastry chef and cookbook author, he decided he needed real change and made the move. He arrived with three crammed suitcases and a truck load of American naiveté and enthusiasm. What follows is a tale of his Paris adventures: hilarious, perplexing, frustrating, and instructional. From the tangled web of everyday French bureaucracy, the no-holds-barred aggression of the street, and the disinterested customer service to the sublime French chocolate, bread, croissants, and cheeses, and back again to the piss-poor coffee, we romp through “gay paree,” with David. It’s this famed dessert maven’s unfiltered view of living in Paris. And, oh, yes, there are a few recipes along the way. I tried all the chocolate ones! Author’s website. BUY now from Amazon.
Ripe for the Picking, Annie Hawes. Penguin Books 2003. A follow up to Hawes’s delightful Extra Virgin. If you didn’t get to read that one when we featured it some time ago in FEAST, read it first. This one continues the adventure with more tales of food and life as an expat in Liguria, Italy’s land of hills and olive groves. BUY now from Amazon.
Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War, Annia Ciezadlo. Free Press 2011. Would you have chosen to honeymoon in Baghdad in 2003? Me neither. But Annia Ciezadlo did and then spent the next six years living there and in Beirut. Her fascinating memoir about breaking bread with “Shiites and Sunnis, warlords and refugees, matriarchs and mullahs” is just the type of food story FEAST loves to bring to your attention. Food and culture are inextricably entangled. They are reflections of one another, they can smooth social differences, and allow us to share in peaceful ways—or not. In his New York Times review, Dwight Garner called Day of Honey a “carefully researched tour through the history of Middle Eastern food. It’s filled with adrenalized scenes from war zones, scenes of narrow escapes and clandestine phone calls and frightening cultural misunderstandings. Ms. Ciezadlo is completely hilarious on the topic of trying to please her demanding new Lebanese in-laws. . . Readers will feel lucky to find her.” We think so, too. Author’s website. BUY now from Amazon.
My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with recipes), Luisa Weiss. Viking 2012. Living in New York and working at her dream job, living with her fiancé, Weiss began a blog called The Wednesday Chef in which she shared her culinary adventures as she cooked her way through a lifetime stack of hoarded recipes. We all have that stack—torn magazine pages, scribbled notes on index cards, cookbooks never used—but in Luisa’s case, she was determined to try them all. Yet beneath what seemed on the surface to be an ideal life lay a longing for her childhood home in Berlin. After a painful breakup, she decided the time had come and dropped everything stateside to move to Berlin. What she discovered there about love and cooking makes a thoroughly delightful and humorous tale that I know any food lover will enjoy. Author’s ongoing blog. BUY now from Amazon.
Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines, Natalie MacLean. From the author of the bestselling Red, White and Drunk All Over, comes this collection of colorful stories about “the passionate personalities who inhabit the world of wine.” MacLean takes you along to Germany’s vineyards, Australia, southern Italy, the Mediterranean, Argentina, Chile, and South Africa on her search for the best in well-priced wines. The author writes in her signature conversational style and shares her findings in straightforward language that eschews the snobbery often found among those who enjoy wine. You may want to visit her website and sign up for her newsletter and download her handy mobile apps loved by fans across the globe. Author’s website. BUY now from Amazon.