‘The Sweet Life’: Culinary adventures in the City of Lights

  Who hasn’t wanted to run away to Paris, to live in a garret with a view of the Eiffel Tower, to hang out in a sidewalk cafe, being mistaken by the tourists for a Parisian, looking chic, svelte and improbably sophisticated for the first time in one’s life?
  Cookbook author and skilled baker David Lebovitz made that move, motivated to uproot his life as many people are by a personal tragedy, in his case the death of his partner. Paris had enchanted him on a youthful vacation right out of college, and what better place for a devotee of gastronomy than the City of Lights, aka Food Heaven.
  "The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious — and Perplexing — City" (2009, Broadway Books) is the result. Lebovitz takes us along as he moves into a flat with an astoundingly tiny kitchen — ironic for the author of four books on desserts. The counter was so small, he says, that he had to lift up one bowl before he could set down another. He washes pots and pans in the bathtub, he says, and cools candy on bathroom shelves. In effect, his whole apartment has become his test kitchen, and he has adapted — like Parisians.
  Living happily in Paris is a matter of conforming oneself to fit in, because no Parisian will change for you — after all, who has the better way of living? So Lebovitz explores the mysteries of line-jumping, the stress of walking on crowded sidewalks where no one will give way, and the sheer terror of learning to navigate a car in a crowded city where they drive just like they walk, except with one hand on the horn.
  There is a key to getting along with Parisians, it seems, and that is propriety. There is a proper way to do everything — to enter a shop, to get a bureaucrat to help you, to appear in public. Don’t try to take out the trash in sloppy sweatpants, please, even though the bin is just steps from the back door. You’ll only embarrass yourself.
  But this book is called "The Sweet Life" for a reason. Paris seduces. In the French culture, people work to live, not live to work, Lebovitz says. The point of life is to live it, savor it, extract all the pleasure possible.
  A cookbook author would be useless without his recipes, and this book has plenty: chocolate mousse, cheesecake, chocolate spice bread — and dozens more, and many of them not desserts.
  So drooling certainly is understandable, over the recipes, certainly, and over a way of life that beckons like the smell of hot, crusty bread wafting through an open bakery door on a quiet April morning along the Seine.

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