An obsession with Paris

The Tuileries Garden in Spring
The Tuileries Garden in Spring

Perhaps it is because I have itchy feet or maybe it is a form of escapism, but I have recently become obsessed with finding and reading books featuring Paris. Although reading fiction has always been a passion of mine it is non-fiction that holds my attention at the moment, in particular memoirs, essays, and narrative history.

Currently on my bedside table is ‘Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate)’ by Amy Thomas, a light and easy book to read especially if you have a sweet tooth. If you like more depth and less self-indulgence then this book is not for you. Amy works for an advertising agency and writes copy for Louis Vuitton, she loves chocolate and all things sweet and likes to make comparisons between her former life in New York and life in Paris. I have not yet finished reading it. Some of my favourite books featuring Paris that I have finished reading are:

Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik. A collection of 23 essays and journal entries chronicling the time he spent living in Paris with his wife and son. Paris to the Moon is a humorous portrayal of life in France, filled with personal observations and cultural commentary.

Paris Revealed by Stephen Clarke. I loved this book. Witty, informative and highly entertaining this book is a joy to read.

Joan DeJean’s book How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City. 17th Century Paris. The inclusion of illustrations from that period provides the reader with glimpses of life in Paris several hundred years ago before Haussmann stripped the city of medieval character to create the wide boulevards and squares that we recognise today.

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris by John Baxter. I loved following John through the streets of Paris, he provides a fascinating view of parts of Paris that are not familiar to me (and there are many). Baxter refers to Hemingway and other authors frequently and after reading all the stories contained within ‘The Most Beautiful Walk in the World’ Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’ is on my must-read list.

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard. A true story that started when the author met and fell in love with a French man. Each chapter is interwoven with delicious food and recipes making this a delightful read for anyone who loves food and dreams of romance in Paris.

Ann Mah’s Mastering the Art of French Eating: From Paris Bistros to Farmhouse Kitchens, Lessons in Food and Love. Journalist Ann Mah’s husband is given a diplomatic assignment in Paris, a dream come true but then her husband is called away to Iraq for a year and Ann is left alone.  To contend with her feelings of loneliness Ann decides to explore France and seek out regional dishes such as cassoulet, Boeuf Bourguignon, and crepes, delving into the history and stories behind these well-known dishes.

The Only Street in ParisLife on the Rue des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino.  A tour of the author’s favourite street in Paris the Rue des Martyrs. Sciolino’s focus on this one particular street gave me a complete picture of what it must be like to live on Rue des Martyrs. I enjoyed reading her stories about the locals who lived and worked on Rue des Martyrs and the history of the buildings.

Macarons and chocolate, Paris
Macarons and chocolate, Paris

 

Early morning markets, Paris
Early morning markets, Paris
Fountain of Apollo, Versailles
Fountain of Apollo, Versailles

La Dolce Vita: Sweet Dreams and Chocolate Memories by Isabel Coe

La Dolce Vita: Sweet Dreams and Chocolate Memories book cover

A friend of mine suggested I read Isabel Coe’s La Dolce Vita: Sweet Dreams and Chocolate Memories, a fascinating story about a woman and her family in Italy and Switzerland and the fond memories she has about cooking, especially with chocolate. My friend and I had been discussing our favourite desserts that our grandmothers once made and knowing how much I love all things Italy and chocolate, she kindly let me borrow her copy of the book.

The recipes featured in this book sound heavenly, I have not dared to test them myself because I don’t know whether the end result would be successful and if it was, then how do I stop myself from eating the entire dessert? Isabel Coe talks of her Omama’s Chocolate Mousse, Nonna’s chestnut truffles and her Mother’s chocolate sandwiches, Isabel learned to cook at a young age and finds comfort in these recipes handed down through generations now that she lives in Australia and lives with the feeling of being homesick. One of the first recipes to grab my attention with its simplicity is Omama’s Creme Chocolat, described as a dessert that ‘tastes rich yet is somehow light to eat’ and is best served with chocolate madeleines.

Omama’s Creme Chocolat (Isabel Coe)

  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar

Method:

  1. Place the cream in a bowl with the vanilla pod and leave to infuse.
  2. Pour the boiling water over the chocolate and stir until dissolved. Stir in the sugar and leave to cool.
  3. Lightly whip the cream and fold into the chocolate mixture.
  4. Eat slowly and savour every mouthful.

I particularly love the last step in the instructions for preparation 🙂

If you have read the book and made any of the recipes contained within I would love to hear about it and if you haven’t read the book but love a good story about family and food, I recommend reading ‘La Dolce Vita’. Reading this book brings back many food memories of my own: shelling peas into a bucket for my Nanna as she prepares Christmas lunch for 20-30 people; beating sugar and butter by hand while sitting in the sun hoping that the warmth would speed the process; and eating the blackest, juiciest plums straight from the tree in my Grandmother’s backyard. It makes me wish that I had captured more of my family stories while my Grandparents were alive.