Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes
While the memoir fad is nothing new, Elizabeth Bard’s new book confirms the emergence of a memoir subgenre to contend with: the memoir with recipes. In May 2009, the New York Times proclaimed these books as the brainchild of the “money-making imagination of the publishing industry.” Certainly, a spate of globe-spanning titles have followed, many born from blogs. However, the story of the American in Paris has long been a favored literary subject. It has sparked writers’ imaginations from Henry James to Anais Nin to Elaine Dundy to David Sedaris. Elizabeth Bard’s adventures in Paris have a more chick-lit feel to them than even Nin or Dundy, and have a liberal sprinkling of Julia Child and Peter Mayle throughout. In this recipe-infused book, Bard navigates a long-distance relationship with a French archivist, decides to move to Paris, and eventually gets married and builds her writing career.
At first, Elizabeth Bard’s life seems impossibly charmed, complete with buying the perfect apartment on the increasingly trendy Rue Oberkampf and negotiating cultural differences that seem more endearing and eye-opening than frustrating. However, what sets Bard’s writing apart from others of her nascent genre is her thoughtfulness and realism. She paints a very true and convincing portrait of herself as a driven, New York striver, bent on academic, artistic, and financial success at an early age and agonizing over why it has not yet arrived. While she is highly educated, she does not come from a place of easy breezy privilege, and in between recipes inspired by fresh finds at her Parisian market, Bard contemplates her family and personal history.
As much as it documents her courtship, relationship, and marriage to Gwendal, a digital archivist and entrepreneur, Lunch in Paris is about Bard’s acclimatization to a Parisian pace of life and ultimately, self-acceptance. Bard finds her stride by finally finding a peaceful balance between her Parisian and New York lives and selves. While this revelation is not particularly groundbreaking and her feminist-tinged reflections stay in safe mainstream territory, Lunch in Paris satisfies readers with a good story, intelligent and heartfelt reflections, and mouth-watering recipes. It’s not clear if these recipes have been kitchen tested the way one would for a professional cookbook, but they serve as solid guidelines for readers interested to add a French twist to their cooking.
While it may not become part of the Americans in Paris literary cannon, Lunch in Paris is a satisfying, straightforward read that feels like a good friend telling you a particularly tasty—and truthful—story.