Thursday, December 12, 2013

Book Review - Mastering the Art of French Eating, Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris


Ann Mah

Category: Nonfiction: Memoir; Food & Cooking; France; Living Abroad

Synopsis: Mah, the wife of an American diplomat in Paris, explores French dishes, their origins, and the people who make them.

Date finished: 12 November 2013

Rating: ***½

This book was the intersection of some of my favorite nonfiction topics: food, France, and living abroad.

I should have loved it.

I liked it, but I didn’t love it. The writing was fine, though formulaic. Each chapter featured a region of France and a dish from that region. Chapters started out with a few pages of memoir, followed by journalism-y accounts of the region and dish being featured, followed by a trip to that region to sample said dish, followed by a memoir-y recap, topped off with a recipe. This outline became very uninteresting very quickly.

Possible reasons I wasn’t enamored with this book:

  • I’m burned out on books about France and food.
  • The writing and set-up wasn’t dynamic enough to keep my attention (see above).
  • I’ve read too many books lately that were too similar (see below).

Although I liked Mah and found her cheerful and adventurous, I just found this book boring. I really wanted to like it more. It’s not that I didn’t learn anything, but I just felt sort of blah throughout. This isn’t a bad book, just not essential to the Francophile/foodie bookcase.

Would you recommend this to a friend?
I wouldn’t actively discourage it, but I might suggest some of the books below first.

You might also enjoy:
My Life in France (Julia Child recounts her years in France)
Dearie (Julia Child biography)
Julia’s Cats (Julia Child biography)
Paris in Love (an American family moves to Paris)
The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry (an American attends Le Cordon Bleu)
Bringing Up Bébé (raising children in France)
French Kids Eat Everything (getting children to eat like French children)
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles (Asian-American girl in search of the origin of Chinese dishes)
My Berlin Kitchen (an American in Germany)
Where the Peacocks Sing (Asian-American girl in India)

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