My Paris kitchen was, I think, a lot different than David Lebovitz’s. My stove top lacked knobs, so my roommates and I ignited our fires with a small metal key and a prayer that the gas wouldn’t accidentally stay on all night (it did a few times). In mid-February when our fridge broke, our balcony facing Place de Clichy became the place to store all butters, cheeses and wine. My most common dinners were the 1€ tabouleh from Franprix or sautéed vegetables resting over lavash, but we shouldn’t forget about the frequently seen mashed avocado (eaten with a spoon) with blood oranges on the side. Our oven quickly became a storage area for half-eaten baguettes, though they rarely saw more than one sunset in our apartment, or, as I called it on my snobbier days–our atélier.
In short, my kitchen wasn’t typically the go-to spot for haute cuisine in Paris, unless we were attempting to play the role of amateur fondue chef. We ordered in, including one night discovering Domino’s delivers wine, and ate out a lot, whether picnics on the bank of Canal St. Martin or (expensive) steak frites next to the Seine. Then, in my mind, French cuisine was only attainable from les vrais français–not in my own kitchen.
A few weeks ago, my good friend Geraldine told me about a program called Blogging for Books, where you sign up and can get books for free for reviewing them. Great, I thought–just what I need, more stuff. Don’t get me wrong–I love books–but I also realize that the world is too much with
us me, a point which I am reminded of every time my closet bursts open. The good part about Blogging for Books is that most of their selection also comes in Kindle form, unless you want David Lebovitz’s Parisian cookbook, My Paris Kitchen.” Which of course I did.
The first time I opened the cover of “My Paris Kitchen,” I knew I would never want to put it down. He captures everything I’ve ever felt and dreamed and experienced about Paris with his breathtaking pictures of buildings reminiscent of my former home, markets, and food. Oh the food. He describes perfectly everything I’ve ever wanted to and haven’t been able to with ease. My favorite part was he didn’t limit himself to French cuisine–it was, after all, his Paris kitchen. Every recipe comes with a story, and I can just imagine him biting into dishes the way Ratatouille villan Anton Ego does–allowing memories to wash over every bite. And in fact, such memories are why I have formed such a close relationship with food (this is a real thing) and hate settling on whatever is on hand. Food as art, and as a means of connecting to a society, are primary influences for Lebovitz.
I decided that I couldn’t review a cookbook without actually making at least one of the dishes first. It wasn’t hard for me to settle on a crêpe complet, one of my favorite Paris meals. It is simply a buckwheat crêpe, ham, cheese (usually Emmental if you get it on the street, though Swiss is close enough), and my favorite part, an egg. When I read Lebovitz goes through more eggs than anyone else, I knew I had found a kindred spirit.
The recipe itself wasn’t exactly the hardest in the book, though I’m sure I made it more difficult by not having the proper equipment on hand. My pan was probably half the size it needed to be, meaning it wasn’t big enough to fold over the crêpe, but we made do. It turned out being a bit more like socca, with the toppings piled on a crêpe-circle the size of a pancake, but it didn’t matter. The flavor was there; Paris was there. All it was missing was the paper wrapper and friendly street vendor. I tossed some greens on the side with a simple homemade vinaigrette, reminiscent of those you find at Parisian cafes–oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper.
For anyone seeking to escape to Paris for a day, or even a minute, “My Paris Kitchen” is the best–and cheapest–way to get there. But I’ll see you soon, Paris. ♦
Note: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review, but all opinions are my own.