As usual, I had grand ideas. Rather than a casual reading of Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard, I decided to do a close perusal. This was a grandiose idea because I was busier at work during the months of April and May than I had ever been. I finally found some down time and with a highlighter and pen in hand, I began my close reading the first week of May.
I had not studied anything this close since graduate school and I had not eagerly underlined and penned my own thoughts in the margins since my undergraduate days. Bard’s writing style lent itself to some “aha” moments (or at least for me) as she discovered a new identity in a foreign land. My copy of Lunch in Paris began to resemble the dog-eared copies of novels that stuffed my backpack in college.
I love her conversational style and her ability to not take herself too seriously. I mean, my goodness, here she was immersed in another culture, only passably speaking the language, and involved with a tall dark Frenchman to boot. How could she not have some comic adventures. But, along with the levity, Bard relates the pain that comes with living away from home and the sorrow that encompasses her with the illness and decline of her new father-in-law.
As I read, pen in hand, I wrote notes by most of the recipes. I inscribed, “Must try this winter” by Lentils with White Wine, Herbs, and Tomatoes. I scrawled (with a smiley face), “Beware squash bugs” by Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Fresh Goat Cheese and Mint. And by Summer Ratatouille, I wrote, “Can’t wait to harvest eggplant and peppers.”
I also underlined tips like spreading mustard on the bottom of a quiche crust (learned by Bard as she observed her mother-in-law).
I had such high hopes, such mighty goals to make as many dishes as I could before this posting was due for Cooks the Books. I envisioned the financiers I would make, the profiteroles that would impress everyone, and the decadent pasta dishes I would make inspired by Grandma Elsie’s Spaghetti Sauce with Pork Ribs and Meatballs. Work and life got in the way. As another book leaves me to pause and rethink what is important and what are just trifles in life (click here for my musings on An Embarrassment of Mangoes), I decided that the best thing I could do was to make a cup of mint tea and finish up the book. As I read the final recipe, I coveted one of Aunt Joyce’s Macaroons to accompany my reflective sips.
Although I did not meet my goals of experimenting with every recipe (who was I kidding?), I did have a well-marked copy to refer back to when I had more time than to make a simple, yet delicious, cup of mint tea.
(This is mostly straight from the novel, I added agave nectar instead of sugar cubes and omitted the pine nuts and orange flower water—basically b/c I didn’t have any.)
2 t. gunpowder green tea, loose
1 bunch mint (5 sprigs)
1 t. agave nectar
2 c. boiling water
Wash mint and place in bottom of tea pot.
Add agave nectar. Place tea in tea ball or tea strainer. Pour boiling water through strainer and into pot. Let steep for 5 minutes.
Pour into a large mug and serve. Enjoy with a good book (and hopefully a macaroon).
Just to end this post I want to quote Elizabeth: “My imaginary life has been getting in the way of reality ever since.” (This is after she tried rum-raisin ice cream for the first time—”I didn’t like the taste, but I liked the idea.“) I love this quote and it seems to sum up a lot of the book—there is potential in everything for new experiences. Love the idea and experience what you can.