Sunday, September 16, 2012

NEXT UP: Read "Paris, My Sweet"

I am Jenny, and I have a problem.

I can't stop reading books about Paris. First this one, then this one, and now THIS one?!

But hey, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem right? And I believe the second step is buying a plane ticket and moving to said object of obsession. I'm no doctor...but...yea, that sounds like the medically accepted treatment.

At least my problem is your present, because I am about to give you a wonderful gift: a must-read, très magnifique book recommendation.

To backtrack a bit, I read Amy Thomas' Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) immediately after I reviewed The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry. You might recall my somewhat harsh critique of the latter book, which detailed one woman's experience at Le Cordon Bleu Paris after leaving behind an established corporate job. Soon after publishing that post, a relative forwarded it to a distant relative who had actually done just that: bravely left her comfy career to pursue her culinary passions in cooking school. She responded with a different opinion of the novel: "I LOVED the book and am really thankful to have read it before going to culinary school because it truly prepared me for how difficult it would be." (I recommend checking out her cooking blog!)

Clearly, the book struck a cord with her, which is why I personally preferred Amy Thomas' book. Amy had thoughts, problems, and experiences that I could relate to much more. In the memoir Paris, My Sweet, 30-year-old Amy's job at a well-known PR/ad agency (cough Ogilvy) gives her the opportunity to work in Paris writing ad copy for Luis Vuitton. Already a lover of all-things-French, Amy says goodbye to her posse of girlfriends and neighborhood haunts in NYC (her home for the past several years), and sets up camp in the City of Light. While the book does talk a bit about her job, it goes into intricate, mouthwatering detail about Amy's sweet freak side. As her loyalty is torn between Manhattan and Paris, her dedication to all-things-chocolate-and-sugary remains steadfast throughout.

What I Liked: Amy's experience is not perfect. She loves Paris immediately, but soon becomes lonely for her friends, her familiar NYC locales, her easier job back home. She does not meet un homme très beau to sweep her off her feet. She does not complete every project perfectly. And she does discuss the five pounds her butt gains after all the foreign indulging. But I liked all the imperfections--the realness of it.

And her descriptions of food? AMAZING. Amy has a real gift for descriptive writing. Listen to her commentary on macarons: "They're delicate yet persnickety [...] A delightful combination of powdered sugar, finely ground almonds, and egg whites and not much else, save for the luxuriously creamy ganache or buttercream filling that holds the two cookies together. Firm but tender, shiny yet ridged, with ethereally light shells and heavy middles, they're miniature studies of contrasts--and deliciousness."    She reveals the best bakeries, cafes, and restaurants for specific desserts in both NYC and France, and even provides guides and maps so the reader can shadow her adventures. 

What I Didn't Like: Not much. I wish there was some sort of epilogue tagged onto the end, but otherwise I would easily enjoy reading this book again.

Should you read it? Yes. It is le meilleur--the best. If the back cover's sentence, "Part love letter to Paris, part love letter to New York, and total devotion to all things sweet," sounds appealing to you, then by all means, indulge in this wonderful memoir. I certainly enjoyed living vicariously through it.

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