When Ellery’s sleeping, I’m reading The Sweet Life in Paris.
I really ADORE David Lebovitz’ recipes (especially for ice cream) and I mostly like his writing, but there’s one part of the book that’s been less than perfect: There’s a bit of an over generalization about Americans.
I’m in a new place where the etiquette is different: a million texts happen before a plan is made, thank you cards are not sent, bringing a gift to dinner surprises people, etc. It’s more casual on the West Coast, which is teaching me to relax, to let things happen (and making me feel a bit square peg). And sure, I’m not thrilled about it, but I guess reading someone else’s cultural over-simplification makes me appreciate that it’s not wholly correct to simplify the coastal differences.
Does that make sense? I’m never sure where those conversations get us…as a connected human culture. Does it contribute to romanticizing French culture? Does it lessen the value of regional American differences? I’m just not sure what it does. It’s no different from when I talk to people about Buffalo and they mention snow…yup, there’s that. But Buffalo has a large refugee population, a pretty impressive art culture (UB poetics contributes to that), architecture that might make Europeans blush, and a rich history of diversity (remember the Underground Railroad?). People seem surprised when I say my mother teaches Burmese, Sudanese, and Bhutanese refugees. I guess the fullness of a place seems important to me and the easy, over-simplification doesn’t resonate or seem authentic.
It’s hard to be an outsider insider: he’s an American in Paris (outsider) who knows and is integrated into Paris (insider). You get the sense that he wants to be insider insider (if that’s a phrase) and it’s compelling to read, in the subtext, that real desire to BELONG. I’m probably most interested in the recipes and the writer’s real need to be accepted and belong in his new place.
I was surprised to read about the active role of apprenticeship in bakeries in France. I’ve wondered why there isn’t more of this in the States (though I do see more of it on the West Coast and I think programs like the Freeskool and alternative education are increasing). I’ve been really struggling to find full and plentiful work–work that satisfies my curiosity and my desire to give back–and I’m thinking apprenticeship might be a way to seek that out more realistically. I wonder, are there teaching apprenticeships still that haven’t been wrecked by the cutbacks?
One thing Lebovitz is ALWAYS great at is making his books and recipes easy teachers…you get to apprentice the books. He really excels at making things easy to follow, offering variations, and providing an explanation of techniques.
I used the macaroon recipe from the book last night and, happily, made my own almond flour to boot.
Delicious. Like I said, I love his recipes. The almond flour isn’t a recipe in his book, but it’s a recipe that should be in any repertoire. Almond flour is expensive and it’s way too easy to DIY it.