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Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  3,762 ratings  ·  532 reviews
The memoir of a young diplomat’s wife who must reinvent her dream of living in Paris—one dish at a time

When journalist Ann Mah’s diplomat husband is given a three-year assignment in Paris, Ann is overjoyed. A lifelong foodie and Francophile, she immediately begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a year-long post—alone. Sud
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 26th 2013 by Pamela Dorman Books
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Rating 2.5

Hmmm....I'll just say the title is misleading. I wanted to hear all about French food and just drool over the recipes. I wanted French bakeries, bread, and hear all the specific details of what the author ate. Instead it was more about the author moving to Paris with her husband for three years, but no sooner they arrived, he was transferred to Bagdad for his diplomat position. And she missed him, LOTS, she was lonely. The audio narration made it seem 'whiny' also.

Anyway, this was a b
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Ann Mah ended up in Paris when her husband was placed there in a diplomatic role. During that time, he was sent to Baghdad on a year-long assignment, leaving her in Paris by herself. I wish that had been more of a back story than central to this book, because her complaints almost ruined this book for me. Mah is an aspiring publisher and journalist, and she writes extensively about missing her husband? I couldn't decide if she was including it to try to make her more human, more approachable, bu ...more
Dec 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
I wanted this book to be good. I really did. The title is so catchy and who doesn't love France and it's wonderful cuisine?

But it was, in fact, a disappointment.

While I enjoyed the way the author travelled into the regions of France to report on the history and preparation of classic French dishes (cassoulet, anyone?), the sections of the book where she focusses on her life in Paris were disheartening. Yes, her husband was stationed in Baghdad and she had to spend a year in Paris... by herself.
Sep 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: elle
Ann Mah is an excellent food writer. Reading as she traveled through the regions and cuisines of France, I wanted so much of the food, so much of the time. Even took an afternoon to drive out w my kid here (in an area not renowned for any cuisine but seafood) in search of steak frites saignant: fortunately for me, we were entirely successful. Ms Mah's travels through France are also illuminating as to the culture, in addition to informative as to French food and drink.

Where the book fell flat fo
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars

Mastering the Art of French Eating was more about the author’s life with her husband than “French Eating”. I listened to most of this while lying in bed with the flu, hoping for some good comfort food, but it was lacking in comfort and coziness and left me feeling underfed and malnourished.

I read this with my foodie buddy PorshaJo. We would have preferred less memoir and more food!
Mar 04, 2014 rated it liked it
I'm torn a little about what to rate this book. It's book about living and working and shopping and cooking and eating in Paris, which is one of my favorite topics, so it it ought to be at least a four, right? And I gobbled it down, just like it was a four or five star strawberry tart with creme fraiche. It was light and breezy and even the cover art is that perfect shade of French green. But, thinking critically, did it really live up to say, Adam Gopnik's incandescent Paris to the Moon? No, of ...more
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to read an early copy of MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH EATING. It's fascinating and fun and eloquent, and so filled with love and heart. I'm neither a foodie nor a Francophile, but the book completely worked for me anyway! Brava, Ann Mah!!
A comfortable and comforting exploration of regional French cuisine, with a few small nods to Julia Child along the way.

In this book Ann Mah lets us view 10 different regions of France through her expat lens, while learning the history, adaptations and cultural significance of one classic dish from that region. Each chapter ends with Mah's own accessible take on a recipe for the dish - one that can be cooked anywhere in the world with the ingredients available. Some of these dishes were familia
Aug 29, 2013 rated it liked it
I'm giving this 3 stars for the vignettes regarding the dishes. These were very enjoyable. However the "poor me" whining about being lonely was extremely irritating and caused me to have an internal debate about finishing the book.
Here's my rant: The "introspective" sections are written in the same self absorbed pretentious style as Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. I'm sorry but she was living in Paris - a city where she's dreamed of living, she can Skype and email daily with her husband, s
MaryJane Brodeck
Jul 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you are Francophile, traveler, foodie or gourmet, this book is for you. I've been to France many times, and after reading this book, I'm reading to fly there next week.

Ann Mah's writing is smooth and enjoyable to read. Mastering The Art of French Eating is about a diplomat's wife who experiences the foods of France. Along the way, she makes some interesting discoveries about herself, as she is traveling alone, while her husband is on assignment in the Middle East.

Throughout the book, Mah inc
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
The title of this book hooked me. I travel to France semi-frequently and look for any book, movie, website, etc. which will help me understand French culture. The first 3-4 chapters did not disappoint as Mah traveled to various regions in France, explaining about that region's food heritage / food specialty and sharing recipe ideas.

Sadly, after those first chapters, she really gets into talking about herself and how hard life is for her for the year that her husband has to travel for work (even
Kristin Espinasse
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
How could anyone be teary-eyed reading a delightful account of France and French cooking? Ann Mah's loving memoir touched this Francophile and French resident deeply! Ann managed to put to words what we who feel the magnet-pull of Paris cannot easily voice. Oh, if passions could speak! Meantime, we can so relate to Ann's sense of wonder and delight as she eloquently and warmly recounts her dream-come-true-come-bittersweet move to Paris via these culinary stories--seasoning them thoughtfully with ...more
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Possibly the highest praise I can give is that I just bought a second copy to gift to a friend whose husband actually IS about to become a diplomat.

Loved this book. So much of my love for it was how much I, as a navy wife, identified with the diplomat husband woes (loneliness; moving often; dreams of a home base; being his first priority in heart, but not always able to be in practice and presence). [I adore being a Naval officer's wife, and the adventures far outweigh the woes, so I'm definitel
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: french
Each chapter ends with a recipe. A couple I may attempt. Her travels around France, history of the foods/recipes, people she meets and learns from leaves me wanting to jump on a plane and head to France ASAP. Not only is the book enjoyable to read but I am learning some history of French cooking.
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel, paris, france, food
There are some books that capture you from the minute you open them and this was one of those books. I always felt hungry when reading it, which as my reading time is usually late at night wasn’t good, but that is about the only downside I found with it. It has also given me itchy feet (again) for this lovely country we live in, but where to head first? Alsace for Choucroute, Brittany for Crêpes, Castelnaudary for Cassoulet, or Provence for Soupe au Pistou are just some of the choices Ann gives ...more
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Even as a Frenchman who loves his andouillette, cheese and garlicky snails, I've learnt so much reading this book. Ann Mah has carried out a serious investigation into the ``classic" French dishes, which is demonstrated by the amazing detail and her perfect description of French culture. In this book, the food is not a background afterthought, as it unfortunately is in so many books about France. Mastering the Art of French Eating explores the deep link between food and love in an artful way whi ...more
Oct 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Francophiles
I loved this book! It really made me want to return to Paris someday. I enjoyed the way Ann described the various dishes that she learned to make and that she included the recipes at the end of each chapter. If you plan to travel to France (or even just in your dreams), this book is for you!
When the author stayed on the purported subject of French Eating, I enjoyed it. Alas, all too much of it was the author whining about how much she missed her husband and what a martyr she was to his career. If that marriage isn't already over, I'm amazed.
Feb 19, 2019 rated it did not like it
One-starring this even though I didn't finish. To be honest, I couldn't get past even the first few chapters. This is not a book to follow Eric Ripert's memoir, so, silly me. It's so sappy already... stop talking about your amazing husband named "Calvin" and how you guys moved to Paris for his work, only to have him pulled away somewhere else for work, and boohoo, what ever shall you do in Paris by yourself?? like omg what a disaster of a city to be plunked down in solo, especially having always ...more
Maurynne  Maxwell
Sep 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, foodie
Anne Mah's food writing sings! This foodie memoir about France never falters when reminiscing about the food, Paris, people, and countryside of France. The personal memoir parts can be tentative, faltering, even at times whiny--reflective of the author's experience of a year spent alone in a new country without husband, friends, or family for emotional support and nurturing/nourishment. Her diplomat husband got a dream posting to Paris for a four-year stint, but then no sooner did they arrive an ...more
Sharon Redfern
Sep 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful book! Ann Mah takes us on a veritable tour of France by the signature food item of each area in France. In each chapter she describes the food, the origins of the food and the modern life of the food item. Interspersed between food passages is the story of her life for one year in France while her diplomat husband was away in Baghdad, leaving her to fend for herself and develop a routine.
I have never been interested in traveling to France but after reading this book and a couple
Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Reading Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah is like having a great conversation with a best friend. Let’s talk about our careers, marriage and love - it’s here. Let’s talk about our deepest hopes, longings, and regrets - it’s here. Let’s talk about our family and parents - it’s here. Let’s share some really great (doable) French recipes - it’s here. Ann mixes all these elements into a poignant conversation with her readers and introduces them to some delightful French citizens while of ...more
Hilary Reyl
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Mastering the Art of French eating is a delicious blend of memoir, history, travelogue and vivid food writing. Ann Mah has a fantastic way with food description. She achieves a satisfying weave of the personal and the and the "informational." Each chapter focuses on a dish from a different region of France, detailing Ann's personal discovery of that food and then taking you to its region of origin. The depth of flavor is captivating! I don't want to give too much of Ann's own story away, but wil ...more
Jul 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

Overall, this was an entertaining, though not particularly novel, book. Mah, an American expat in Paris, discusses a different French food in each chapter. Often, she delves into the history behind the food, which, in my opinion, was very interesting. Mah also chronicles her time in Paris, focusing on getting used to the city, being an expat, and being alone (her husband ends up being dispatched to the Middle East for a year).

Overall, th
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It seems a little indolent to read a book about the pleasures of food in France from underneath an umbrella beside the Mediterranean, but alas.

I loved every word of this book from the loneliness & worry as the author missed her husband who was far from Paris in Iraq to the sun soaked Provençal days to navigating Paris as an expat.

I have just come back from the market and my counter in filled with all of the ingredients for a large pot of pistou.
Aug 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoyed this. Ann Mah's descriptions of the food made me so hungry and had me wishing I still lived in Europe. Good food was a big deal there and almost all the countries took such pride in their specialties. I say 'almost all' because some countries didn't have anything to brag about. Just sayin'.

Living in Paris, her love of food was evident and nicely written. Her personal life was a bit of a distraction and a little repetitive. So 3 stars.

Leigh Kramer
Feb 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Rich exploration of expat life in Paris. Her reflections on building community, especially while apart from her husband, resonated with me and I loved seeing where her culinary whims led her as the book progressed.
Aug 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: food, memoir
Enjoyed the food bits, but the memoir parts were a slog. Mah's an annoying whiner. Skip this one.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ann Mah has married a diplomat and her life has become a round of moves. And then her husband is posted to Paris, and Mah is living in the city of her dreams. But that ends quickly, and Mah's husband is suddenly reposted to Iraq, and Mah must find a way to focus her days without her husband. She does, writing a novel, taking a job in a library, and writing a blog about French foods. Her research takes her to Brittany where she studies crepes, to Provence where she studies Soup au Pistou, and Bur ...more
Feisty Harriet
This reminded me of "Eat Pray Love" in a lot of ways....and I HATED "Eat Pray Love." Like, I'm so sorry that you got to spend a year by yourself in Paris, with regular communication with your loved one and several 3-week vacations with him and you got to travel around exploring and eating and writing about it. Sounds horrible. (To be clear, the author truly makes it sound like this might be the worst year of her life...and she references this horribleness regularly. And I just... stop it.)

Some o
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Mastering the Art of French Eating Book Review 1 6 Jan 28, 2015 08:32AM  

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Ann Mah is a journalist and novelist based in Paris and Washington, D.C. She is a regular contributor to New York Times' Travel section, and her articles have also appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, the Washington Post, The Best American Travel Writing 2017, Washingtonian magazine,,,, and other publications.

Ann is the author of several books, including the USA

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“There was no experience, I thought, quite as wonderful as being an American in Paris.” 3 likes
“I’ve always felt there are two states of existence: being in Paris and being out of it.” 1 likes
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