Friday, June 24, 2011

Remembrance of Things Paris

There's an image of Ruth Reichl's Remembrance of Things Paris over in the sidebar of this page marked "What I'm Reading"  But that's a lie.  I'm not reading anything now.  Maybe it's the craziness of moving or a yen to watch movies but for whatever reason, I don't have a lot of patience for reading at the moment.  And maybe I've just had it with books about Paris.  So to be honest, I haven't read every piece in this anthology of articles about culinary Paris originally published in Gourmet from the 1940s to the present.   Some read like ancient history, describing a Paris that is no more real to me than a page in a dusty book.  Others delve deeply into technique and dish out recipes with a daunting number of steps.  And then there are some more contemporary memoirs, some sweet, some funny that touched just the right note.  In particular, I enjoyed "An Insincere Cassoulet," by Michael Lewis, a piece I had originally read in the magazine back in 2001.  I mean, who could resist these words?

Permit me to explain.  As anyone who is honest about it will tell you, Paris is a city of vulgarians that has somehow cowed the world into believing it is the global capital of worldliness, a living and breathing arbiter of good taste.  The Parisians treat each other and everyone else with a crudeness and contempt that would make a New Yorker blush.  Yet for reasons as deep as they are mysterious, they retain the unique ability to convey an air of sophistication to anyone unlucky enough to experience prolonged contact with them.  You don't live in Paris for the fun of it; you live in Paris to acquire, or seem to acquire, a bit of the Parisan ability to impress others with your worldliness.

Put another way, the whole point of living in Paris for a year is to let others know that you are the kind of person who might well have lived in Paris.

Put yet another way:  Though I have arrived at the point where I can't wait to leave Paris, I don't exactly want to leave Paris behind.

Remembrance of Things Paris is probably not the kind of book you should plan to read in a single sitting, or even in a single vacation.  Better to let it marinate on your nightstand, in your commuting bag, or wherever you have your morning coffee, ready to be picked up and delved into in small increments.  Les Halles and Gourmet may both be gone but with this anthology, they'll never be far away.


debbie in toronto said... of the rare books I had read before you put it up as one you were reading..and I's the kind of book you can do in pieces for sure...

"the whole point of living in Paris for a year is to let others know that you are the kind of person who might well have lived in Paris."

well that's you for sure took us with you ....

enjoy the last 7 days...I've got to start packing!

Anonymous said...

your blog is fascinating! I don't know how you can leave and come back to the USA though...especially with children. If it were me, I would do anything I could to raise them anywhere but here for as long as I could. Then, they would have a chance at becoming educated, interesting human beings as opposed to entitled, baby-mama attention seeking illiterates... Just my opinion. I have always said that I would have condsidered having a child if I lived anywhere but here...

Amy said...

Thanks for the advice on this book. I'll save it on my list for now in favor of other good all-in-one-summer-afternoon reads.

(I'm sick of reading books about Paris, too. I'd rather be in Paris...)

Anonymous said...

Love the quote from "An Insincere Cassoulet," by Michael Lewis. It made me laugh. Thanks for sharing.

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