The Sweet Life in Paris is part memoir, part cookbook, and part guidebook on how to blend in with Parisians. The book tells the story of why pastry chef, author and blogger David Lebovitz decided to uproot his life in San Francisco and move thousands of miles away to France. And within that story, there are many others, from how David makes the best use of his tiny Paris apartment to how he both won over his neighbors and disposed of batches and batches of ice cream while he was working on The Perfect Scoop. David tells the stories with lots of humor and it’s hard not to smile when you read the book.
I definitely related to many of the stories in the book, because I was in Paris not long ago and noticed many of the behavioral quirks of Parisians that David explains so well. One that jumps out is cutting in line, which is an important skill to master because Parisians, apparently, just don’t do it if you have left even a tiny space available in front of you. I found this to be true when I tried to buy an umbrella on a rainy afternoon in a small shop. Two women managed to sneak ahead of me in spite of the fact that I was only about a foot away from the cash register, umbrella in hand. Sticking the umbrella out in front of me was effective on blocking line jumper number three (they’re persistent!) and allowing me finally to make my purchase. The point of this anecdote is that, based even on my limited experiences with the city, I found David’s stories to be accurate as well as entertaining. Not only do I feel inspired to make a return trip, but much better prepared to jump into the culture and hit the ground running.
There are one or two recipes included for every chapter of the book, mostly French or French inspired, although some are included specifically because they’re not readily available in France, like Mole and Carnitas. The recipes are a nice break in the story and give you a reason to come back to the book again and again – something that doesn’t happen with most memoirs. Some of the recipes also appear on David’s blog, but most have been tweaked and retested into excellence for the book.