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French Toast: An American in Paris Celebrates the Maddening Mysteries of the French
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French Toast: An American in Paris Celebrates the Maddening Mysteries of the French

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  361 ratings  ·  59 reviews
Peter Mayle may have spent a year in Provence, but Harriet Welty Rochefort writes from the wise perspective of one who has spent more than twenty years living among the French. From a small town in Iowa to the City of Light, Harriet has done what so many of dream of one day doing-she picked up and moved to France. But it has not been twenty years of fun and games; Harriet
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Hardcover, 128 pages
Published November 15th 1998 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Cindy
Nov 20, 2007 Cindy rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: francophiles
I know this is not a sociological work but only a mere personal memoir but I don't find it particularly smart or insightful into French culture. (I don't find it witty either, as the cover suggests or as reviews have raved.) The author's views and interactions of the French seem only with the aristocrats and she never gives middle-class views on anything (which isn't her fault because her experiences deal with a lot of her French family); even so, it seems as if her views are skewed. She was sho ...more
Ka
May 06, 2009 Ka rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: french
Like the author, I am a Midwestern girl with a passion for all most things French and thus expected to thoroughly enjoy this book. I found the narrative style far too campy, however, and was left to muse on whether madame really is that dense or is playing up her Iowan roots to score points with an American audience. It is ironically a prime example of the untoward familiarity the French are so suspicious of, something she talks discusses at length in the book.

Nearly all of the insights in this
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Meredith
The book had some helpful insights into French psyche and culture, but it would have benefited from the pen of a good editor.
Andrea Guy
I have mixed feelings about this book. It was a cute fun read about a woman from Iowa who was transplanted in France, marries a Frenchmen and stays there. I think the problem I had while reading this, wasn't that the book wasn't witty or didn't offer a funny view of how the French were, it was that I genuninely didn't like Harriet, or her husband, Phillipe.

The other thing that irked me was how this book was definitely scewed to the more well to do people. But then again, how many poor schmucks l
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Eric_W
This wonderful book, delightfully read by Anna Fields, is the humorous memoir of an American woman who marries a Frenchman. Peter Mayle’s observations of the French are amusing, but he always observes from the outside, whereas Harriet Rochefort married a Frenchman (providing countless anecdotes of French in-laws); has taught in the French schools (offering trenchant and useful observations of the rigorous French public school system, where children go to school for an education, not to play spor ...more
Erica  Reynolds
France, the UK, and the United States are all countries founded out of the Enlightenment. At the core of our legal systems and political values, we are united. But there are subtle nuances pertaining to style, food, romance, and family, that vary according to life's little formalities. If you flip to most any passage or chapter in this book, as broken down by the following:
1) The French and Their Food : why after a valiant effort to make five-course meals twice a day for two decades, I decided t
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Tina
Full review and inspired dish amy be found at Novel Meals:

http://novelmeals.wordpress.com/2013/...

A fun read if you are a bit of a Francophile. This is a lighthearted easy read with insightful information on what’s it like to be an American married to a Parisian, living in Paris.

The author, Harriet Welty Rochefort, had an adventurous spirit since she was a child. An early influence was her step grandmother who was a professor of French at Grinell College in Iowa. Growing up in a farming communit
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Angelique
I love travel books written by people who have lived in one place and then moved to another and become "native" in their new land. After reading many books by Peter Mayle, I found this one and put on my "to-read" list and then found an inexpensive paperback copy of it for my own shelf. I needed a short easy read for our weekend stay-cation at the hotel, a good book to sit by the pool with, in the sun, or lounge in the hotel room and read. I took this with me and in two days finished it up! I cou ...more
Kris
May 05, 2015 Kris rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: expats in France, francophiles
Shelves: funny
This was funny! As an American living in France, I could relate on a lot of points. The French inspire ambivalence, they're maddening, but I'd miss them if I left.

This is a memoir, not a general analysis of the French, so it only goes into the experience of one very specific situation. It's quite heteronormative, so certain pronoun choices grate on the non-heterosexual reader. Because the author is a bit older, it doesn't go into the particularities of my own generation; obviously forty-somethin
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Susan
"Read" this book on tape. I think the information will come in very handy when I visit Paris in The Spring of 2010. The wife is American, has lived in Paris for 20+ years with Parisian husband. Learned things like to pay a high compliment for something extraordinarily good, you say, "Not bad," or "Paux mal" (pronounced like the cigarettes, PallMall). And if you are hosting a meal and your wine glass is empty, it's bad manners to fill it yourself, you should wait for someone else to fill it up. D ...more
Jo Anne
First of all,l this book isn't a scholarly sociological study if the French. Instead it is the often hilarious observations of an American living in Paris with her French husband and family. The author gives helpful hints on a variety of topics. For instance, when attending a dinner party, it is considered improper to announce where you're going when you get up from the table. One sips soup from the end of a spoon, not the side as Americans do, NOTHING is eaten with your hands, and lettuce is to ...more
Erin
When cultures clash! In this memoir, Rochefort tells us about her experiences about living in France, being married to a French husband, and raising three French sons, all while trying to understand and survive the cultural differences between the French and Americans.
While some of the information is interesting and knowledgable, there really wasn't anything throughout the book that struck me as overly unique. Rochefort seems to have the same general complaints that most Americans do while in P
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Dawn
Written by a woman from rural Iowa who has been married to a Parisian, and living in Paris for twenty years, French Toast presents an insider's view of the French at their ... Frenchiest. Rochefort explores French eccentricities with self-effacing humor, and accepts that the French (particularly Parisians) are never going to be polite, form an orderly line, or stop smoking everywhere and taking their dogs to restaurants.

This short, fun book made me very glad I'm not French (or married to a Frenc
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S.
I love the author's depiction of the French as defensive, aloof, critical and prone to sarcasm, but this is not news to anyone. I also love that she emphasizes the fact that French women are universally slim ONLY in Paris. The larger the distance from Paris, the larger the waistlines of women AND men.
Her description of the creches and la belle ecole reaffirm my love and admiration for France's approach to education: strict, competitive and thorough. School isn't where one goes to "have fun" it's
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Karen
The parts I read were fine, but the book didn't hold my interest even though it's super short. Too many books to read to waste time on those I'm not loving so I'm donating it and moving on...
Vicki Grunewald
Despite the silly title, this is more of a serious sociological study of Parisians, their behavior, beliefs, and culture. The author is an American living in France, which is interesting in itself, however there wasn't enough anecdotes for me to find the book very relatable. When the author did provide a story, especially about her sons, it sometimes sounded like she was bragging about their success. She does apologize for this in the book, but still, it's like in Seinfeld when Uncle Leo brags a ...more
melissa
I have a rather odd collection of books on the French. I'm no francophile, I don't speak French, I have only the smallest desire to go France and even then only if I'm in the neighborhood. (That neighborhood being London. Holla!) (Also, I live near Paris, TX. Isn't that good enough? I mean the Dairy Queen there is outstanding.) One of these days I'll get to the bottom of this fixation. French Toast will not have been a help. I ran through this in one night and it was probably the dullest my-life ...more
Rachel
Totally fun and insightful book.
amanda
If you really want to learn about a bougie american who spends her entire life in Paris trying to impress her French husband and his family, then read this book. It's insufferable and rather out of date. Modern Paris does not care if you cut your lettuce and how to behave socially. It is a melting pot of cultures, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Harriet's Paris is nothing like most ex-pat's Paris. And i really think that her views are rather old fashioned and dare i say... ethnocentric ...more
Moira
Eh, I'm not entirely sure why I picked this one up in the first place...

It was OK, I didn't love it, didn't hate it. The look into a different world was interesting. Things I didn't know, things I wouldn't think to think of, an attempt to explain the differences between Americans and the French (other than the fact that they are always referred to as a proper title "the French" unlike us, for whom the formal title is reserved for the singular as opposed to the masses. Just realized that, hhmmmm)
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Stephanie Carlson
Chuckled through this book, Rochefort points out the differences between the French and American culture with a great sense of humor. This book makes me appreciate my parents bi-cultural marriage even more!

I am glad that she makes it quite clear that the anecdotes she uses to describe the French culture are her personnel experiences and not a generalized perspective on every single French person.

Overall an enjoyable read, makes me want to visit Paris again, even if people are honestly rude!
Sarina
Like some have said, "French Toast" does focus mostly on upper class Parisians. I can see why it could be viewed as incomplete, but I don't think it's meant to be complete, just an entertaining book about personal experiences. It's a fairly fast read. The writing was often funny and light, but direct. It was definitely fun (and informative) and might make a good book to take with you on vacation.
Ellen Broadhurst
I was clearly not in the target market for this particular bit of writing. I'm not exactly sure who was, though. Maybe American women looking to move to Paris with their families? Small group, I think.

Overall, the writing is not terribly interesting, the stories not overly funny or informative, the generalizations of Parisians and occasionally the French done in quite broad strokes.
John
Okay ... as long as one keeps a firm grip on her disclaimer that it's the story of her experiences and observations. I guess the equivalent would be if a French woman married a very successful American, and raised a family on the Upper East Side of Manhattan as leading an "American" life. Worth a read, but I wouldn't go out of my way to do so.
Carissa
mehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. this book was this woman who grew up in the midwest united states telling about her life now that she's grown up and married a parisian. it's a lot of "americans are like THIS but the french are like THIS." maybe it was a bad narrator, but i just didn't care about the author or her story.
Meghan
I absolutely adore this book. Everything Harriet W. Rocheforte writes is infused with a great sense of humor. Through her writing one can explore the French culture and be constantly amused by her faux pas. Her books also have various recipes scattered throughout which have become staples in my repertoire.
Susan
Mar 29, 2008 Susan rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Susan by: Marilyse Benyakar
Any book that uses the phrases "the French woman" and "American women" in parallel makes me cringe (as in "the French woman thinks such-and-such," but "American women think such-and-such"). It makes French women sound like objects and American women sound like people. What was this author thinking?
Tiffany
I think that the author was very honest about French culture versus American culture. I think the way she explained the school system was great, I've tried explaining to people and it's hard to do and not make it sound bad. It's a great into to French culture and funny to boot!
Michelle
I have an unhealthy obsession with Paris (specifically, its patisseries), but I would never want to live in that city. But, I'm fascinated about the expats who do live in Paris. Quick, breezy read on understanding the French, from an American perspective. The author is totally charming.
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