I picked up Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate), by Amy Thomas, published by Source Books, as my travel reading for a trip to France with a student group. It looked promising since I love Paris, chocolate, and word play and the title suggested a healthy dose of all three. It delivered.
Lucky Thomas was transferred to France from her life in New York with an ad agency. She had the plum assignment of writing ad copy for Louis Vuitton’s English-language campaigns for two years. With the help of a few good contacts and driven by a sweet-tooth of gargantuan proportions, Thomas packed up her cat and left the Big Apple for a chausson aux pommes (highly yummy apple turnover).
The book is divided in chapters by baked good, and bakery reviews are layered with Thomas’ memoir about trying to find her place in Paris’ closed-ranks social world. An unexpected bonus was her reflections about the best that New York had to offer to the sweets obsessed. Thomas’ writing style is full of fun lines, such as,”The food was treated so respectfully that I had no choice except to genuflect. It was glorious,” and “Sacré-Coeur sitting placidly like dollops of crème Chantilly up on its hill in Montmartre…” I must say, however, that the memoir sections weren’t improved by gratuitous use of the f-word. Why bother?
Possibly most useful of all is Thomas’ list of bakeries and addresses for Paris and New York – split as neatly as the two halves of an macaron with eight pages for each city. The two flyleaves feature maps of Paris and New York with some of her favorite places marked. I loved that the symbol key is images of pastries. Because I live relatively near NY and try to get to Paris at least once a year, I found this book to be particularly scrumptious.
Today’s expression, la douce France (lah doose frahnse) means “sweet France,” or “gentle France.” When I was looking for inspiration for today’s word, I typed “sweet” into my go-to wordreference.com and found about a dozen synonyms, each conveying a different nuance of that one-syllable word. That type of precision is what makes both the language and the sweets of France so special. Every yummy detail matters.