Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lunch in Paris

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with RecipesLunch in Paris
Elizabeth Bard
Little, Brown (2010)
ISBN 031604279X

Yes, Cook the Books has come around again, and although I read this book early in April, what with one thing and the other, I'm just getting around to cooking and posting.

I must say that Lunch in Paris is not especially a book I'd have picked up on my own. In the past I've read a lot in the expat-in-France genre, but now I'm living that dream myself (after 26 years in the Netherlands) and don't feel so much the need to share vicariously in someone else's adventure. In this case, I'm a generation older and moved to France for the countryside, weather, food, prices, and lifestyle (i.e., early retirement) rather than for love. Nevertheless, we share many of the same reactions to our expat experience. I did have to laugh at the importance of having your name on a utility bill. I now keep a copy in my checkbook, in case I need to show it somewhere.

"Pardon me, sir, I couldn't help but notice; the cobblestones outside your door are older than my country." For an American (of the US type) who was once awed by sleeping in a 200-year-old log cabin in New Hampshire, living in Europe has really been an eye opener. I no longer think something 200 years old is very old. My house was built in 1900—it's a youngster. Everywhere you go, you're surrounded by history and tradition that are many, many centuries old. Paleolithic cave paintings, Roman baths, traces of Richard-the-Lionheart. Living as an expat, one soon learns that there are many more views of history than we were taught in school. Even the story of WWII more complex and even rather different from what we learned.

And, oh dear, problems with the language. Struggling with numbers at the market. I try to listen, I really do, but sometimes I just don't get it. The nice lady at our post office now shows me her calculator after she's added the total.

Bard and I even share food experiences. Fear of mayo. I grew up thinking Miracle Whip was mayonnaise, and detested all forms of the white, slimy stuff. Real mayonnaise was a revelation, although I discovered this before we ever moved to Europe. Croissants. When I first visited France at not quite 13, I loved to peel off the flaky layers of my morning croissant. (Reportedly Julia Child's recipe for croissants in Mastering the Art of French Cooking is do-able has has good results, but I haven't gathered my courage in hand for this yet.) Also on this trip I discovered the tiny fraises des bois, wild strawberries, each one an explosion of flavor. Now I have these in my garden.

For our Lunch in Paris meal, we started with Haricots Verts in Walnut Oil (Lunch, p216). I love haricots verts and the walnut oil I used is special. Every January, my commune has a soirée énoissage, an evening of walnut shelling. After several hours of shelling walnuts, we were treated to a simple dinner (onion soup, beans and pork served with dandelion greens, homemade apple tart). We had the option to purchase a liter of the walnut oil produced from our efforts, and this is what I used to make these beans. They were especially good because of our effort, of course.

Next there was Lamb Tagine with Prunes and Roasted Sweet Potatoes (Lunch, p312). Lamb, North African food, slowly cooked meat dishes, all food I love. And I love the combination of traditions in a single dish (fusion cuisine of a different sort).

I wonder about the "serves 8" part; I think 5 or 6 would be more like it. I started with about about 3 pounds of bone-in shoulder. Boning a chunk of meat like this is something the butcher can do in about 5 minutes, but takes me closer to an hour. (Not my favorite kitchen job.) I neglected to weigh the boned amount.

Since it's largely made ahead of time, this tagine would be an ideal party dish. I suspect you could prep everything the day before and just assemble and pop in the oven before you're planning to serve. As suggested, I served this with couscous, topped with raisins and cinnamon. Very yummy it all was.

And for dessert, a very French choice at this season when our tree is over-flowing with cherries, and one of my favorite meal closers (and occasional breakfast), clafoutis de cesises (Petit, p898, with technique and inspiration from other sources). Here it is fresh from the oven.

Altogether, this project was more fun than I initially expected. Now I've got another book with lots of stickies still to cook. And several links to "real" French cookbooks to help me build my collection in that area.

Thanks to Jo at Food Junkie Not Junk Food for hosting this book challenge!


  1. that clafouti looks divine - i want a piece right now!

  2. The meal you whipped ups is so scrumptuous!And...wait a minte: you have your own walnut oil? Lucky you! I'd love to stay in France one day, it sounds like a great place to live.

  3. Everything sounds delicious, the full deal. And you seem to be living in a delightful place.

  4. Everything looks wonderful and I loved to hear about your own expat experiences. Well done!!!!!,

  5. Beautiful dishes! I can only imagine how good freshly pressed walnut oil is.

  6. I'm so glad you joined us on this round of Cook the Books. Your post is just terrific!