Thursday, August 11, 2011

My First Cookbook Review

I am not the kind of person who re-reads a book till it falls apart. I enjoy the first read; where I get to meet characters, imagine locations, follow plotlines and revel in surprise endings. Now having studied literature, I also mentally make notes; forming critiques, applying theories, noting illustrations, etc. So, a book that makes me lose track ‘cause I’m laughing my heart out comes rarely. And ‘The Sweet Life in Paris’ by David Lebovitz is just such a book. Published in 2009 by a division of Random House, its 29 chapters are filled with the author’s stories along with 50 recipes.
As a popular blogger turned author, living in Paris no less, it would be easy to dismiss his work as yet another clichéd work on ‘French food’. Nothing could be further away from the truth. His engaging and charming narration of personal stories quickly draws the reader in. What keeps that attention is the totally unique, fresh perspective to this ancient, historical city. It is his aim to show Paris as ‘a big city with flaws just like any other major metropolis’. And he succeeds with anecdotes about the salesmen, bureaucracy, street manners, the ritualistic hazing he must undergo to fit in, etc. Thus through his work, Lebovitz is able to take a city replete with clichés and humanize it.

As a migrant from San Francisco, USA, Lebovitz shows an admirable ability to critique his fellow Americans as much as he does the locals. He lightly mocks the fanny pack carrying, culture ignorant American tourist. At the same time, he bursts out against the poor customer service in banks, supermarkets, etc. Even if one does not enjoy baking, this book is a highly entertaining read.

But it is really the food gyaan that Lebovitz excels in. His food tips and recipes have been meticulously researched and tested. In fact, it is his ‘friendly and approachable style’ to food that makes him popular among chefs and bakers across the world. He provides comprehensive cooking tips on storage, serving, etc. At the end of the book is a detailed list of resources for products in France and USA. My only grouse with the book is the black and white photographs. Any reader of his blog can attest to his exceptional food photography skills. 

I have baked a number of dishes from this gem of a book. Example: Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Spice Bread, Hot Chocolate, Dulche De Leche Brownies, etc. As a novice baker, I can assure anyone of the technical information it provides. If one is passionate about this craft, I’d strongly recommend this book. It is easily available here.


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