Last week I celebrated Thanksgiving in the US with my family for the first time in years. Since moving to Paris, I’ve enjoyed mixing cultural traditions. Franco-international-expat-American Thanksgivings have become my new norm – what fun!
Still, in a year of many blessings, it was a gift to spend this holiday with my family. And oh the food! I’m not sure gourmandise would be the right word for what went down as it was outright gluttony. I literally cannot remember the last time I saw (and ate) so much food. The dessert table alone was outrageous(ly good). There was pumpkin pie and pecan pie and apple pie and cheesecake and cookies and and and….
When journalist Ann Mah’s diplomat husband receives a three-year assignment in Paris it is a dream come true. He’s suddenly called to a new post in Iraq, however, changing drastically Mah’s reality of a new life in the City of Light.
Mastering the Art of French Eating blends food, travel, and gastronomic history. It’s a lovely memoir that explores the stories behind many of France’s signature regional dishes, from crepes to cassoulet, choucroute to boeuf bourguignon. It’s also a personal story of navigating a new country, battling loneliness, and learning lessons in both food and love.
The book has already gained much buzz, including being named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon and a best fall travel book by National Geographic Traveler. I’m delighted to offer a free copy to one lucky reader and to have Ann Mah on the blog for the occasion.
Mah’s foodie credentials are well-documented, so I was tickled when she decided to reveal a few of her guilty pleasures in the guest post below. It’s one of those truths of expat life: we’re blessed with the riches of our adopted land, but we certainly have odd cravings for home, too. I might just have experienced the perfect illustration while reading this book: I ate Thanksgiving leftovers and fell more in awe of the incredible culinary heritage of France.
Paris is the home of Michelin three-star restaurants, the finest chocolatiers, award-winning fromageries, world famous pâtissiers, etc., etc. But when you live in the City of Light as an expat, you start to develop certain guilty pleasures, cravings for foods that are perhaps a little trashy, a little overpriced (or both) and, quite often, aren’t even…French. In this list, I reveal all…
1) Starbucks — I tell people I go to Starbucks for the Wifi and free bathrooms. The truth is, we buy all our coffee here. French roast, ground for a gold filter. It sure beats whatever they’re selling at Monoprix.
2) Parmesan cashews from La Grande Epicerie — These nuts are insanely overpriced. But, c’mon! Cashews dusted in grated parmesan and then roasted until golden and toasty? They are also insanely delicious.
3) Picard — Honestly, I love the entire store. But I’m especially crazy about the section called “les apéritifs,” which offers an array of puff pastry hors d’oeuvres. Pop a few dozen pigs-in-a-blanket in the oven and you’ve got dinner.
4) Michel et Augustin yogurt drinks – With labels featuring cartoon cows, it’s obvious these yogurt drinks are made for kids. But I love the version that’s perfumed with Madagascar vanilla, a perfect quick breakfast or afternoon snack. And it’s sweetened with pure maple syrup, which means it’s healthy, right?
5) Chips de pomme de terre, saveur cheeseburger – Cheeseburger-flavored potato chips? I buy these solely for the sake of novelty. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
To enter to win a copy of “Mastering the Art of French Eating,” leave a comment divulging one of your guilty pleasures by Tuesday, December 10 at noon EST.
(If you’re too embarrassed to confess, leave a “I want to win” comment anyway, though won’t it be more fun for us all to share? I’m a Picard girl all the way – no shame!)
UPDATE: Congrats to winner Karene!