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

3.36  ·  Rating Details ·  453 Ratings  ·  71 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
Paperback, 205 pages
Published June 8th 2010 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published November 15th 1998)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Feb 24, 2016 Mom rated it liked it
I thought this was going to be a quick read but it turned out to be more detailed and absorbing than I expected. I didn't understand some of the references and didn't agree with some of the comparisons she made. Still, I learned a great deal about the French and how they think. If I had known about its existence before I went to France I would have read it before going. They always say don't talk loud, don't smile, make sure you get the correct change, always watch your back, but they don't tell ...more
Oct 31, 2007 Cindy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
May 06, 2009 Ka rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 23, 2009 Meredith rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The book had some helpful insights into French psyche and culture, but it would have benefited from the pen of a good editor.
Since our trip to Paris, I have wanted to read more about life there. The description of this book was exactly what I was looking for, but unfortunately, it was just too dated (1998) to be of much use or interest. I think that things have changed a lot with the French since then.
Jan 31, 2017 Katelyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a cute book for people who aren't completely exposed to France. As someone who has already traveled there and has learned much about the culture, it wasn't a whole lot of new information. I liked the commentary from the husband.
Nov 15, 2008 Eric_W rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
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
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
Jun 25, 2013 Tina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, france
Full review and inspired dish amy be found at Novel Meals:

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
Mar 12, 2016 Boiling rated it liked it

An easy read. It is great to read about cultural differences between the 2 countries - US and France though I am not sure about how true everything is. However, I am getting tired of this French women are all perfect things that is spread by all these articles and books - They look great, cook 5 course meals daily, are sexy, great moms and wives and daughters. Then, why the hell did a French man marry her, if French women are so perfect?

Somehow, I get a negative perception of France after
Erica  Reynolds
Jun 29, 2008 Erica Reynolds rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jo Anne
Apr 21, 2013 Jo Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 18, 2011 Angelique rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 30, 2013 Kris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 11, 2009 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Feb 21, 2013 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 07, 2008 Dawn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 03, 2012 S. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: morocco
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
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
Stephanie Carlson
Apr 12, 2013 Stephanie Carlson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Nov 04, 2012 Moira rated it it was ok
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)
Jul 02, 2014 amanda rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 30, 2008 melissa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Laura Hogensen
I learned a few cultural differences that I wouldn't have otherwise known, but honestly, the writing is distractingly bad. The author repeats herself so often, sometimes within the same chapter, that I wondered if my audiobook accidentally rewound in my pocket. I feel as though she had a few main points, but needed to fill up a book, so ended up writing the same thesis over and over. Not worth your time.
Blanca Madrigal
Aug 18, 2016 Blanca Madrigal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Blanca by: Colleague
It's one woman's perspective on the franco-american differences and I struggle to find the same differences in my personal experience. However, she does point out some common perceptions and explains why things may be that way. It was a fun read, I would recommend it to anyone in a similar situation...or someone who may want a good laugh. I especially appreciated the chapter on education, which is making me think about what decisions I will take on this regard.
Dec 05, 2010 John rated it liked it
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.
Jan 18, 2016 Veldi rated it really liked it
A very brief account of American experience in France (Actually, a middle-upper class France). Very honest comparsion of some aspects between the two cultures. I suspect one cannot see the french society in whole, but it's nevertheless a very satisflying read. And the conclusion is: if you wanna marry a french guy, love got to have A LOT to do about it.
Mar 30, 2007 Meghan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 20, 2016 Amanda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting at times, but mostly very complainy. And I’ve got a complaint of my own about that cover: does that cover say middle-aged mother to you? It sure didn’t to me.

[This review originally appeared on my blog. You can see the post here.]
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.
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