Lessons in Food and Love From a Year in Paris

By Ann Mah

Pamela Dorman/Viking. 273 pp. $25.95

“An American in Paris,” take — well, who’s counting now, anyway? In “Mastering the Art of French Eating,” journalist Ann Mah joins a long line of authors who have crossed the Atlantic and explored — and consumed — their way through the City of Light. Like her famous predecessor Julia Child, Mah is married to an American diplomat who lands a plum gig in Paris. It’s a dream come true for the Francophile writer, but when her husband is quickly transferred to Baghdad, she’s crushed, especially because she can’t go with him. To fill her time and her stomach, Mah decides to learn more about some of France’s signature foods. To her credit, she leaves the city precincts and travels to more far-flung locales with some far-out specialties. Adouillette — sausage made from stomach and tripe — anyone?

Her detours into the history and provenance of these foods offer a slightly different twist on the standard fare, interesting enough to sometimes overshadow the personal story lines they’re sharing the page with. The Paris-based mashup of travelogue, memoir and cookbook is by now a long-established genre. Mah is counting on our appetite for it to remain undiminished. There are plenty of tasty morsels here, but the prose and storytelling could use the lift found in a perfect French souffle.

Becky Krystal

“Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris” by Ann Mah. (Penguin)