Showing posts with label 2013 foodie challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2013 foodie challenge. Show all posts

Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 Challenges Wrap-Up

Oh, my 2013 reading challenges.  I knew from the start that I was taking on too much, but did I let that stop me?  No, of course not!

As a reminder, I took on five different challenges this year.  Some were completed...and some were epic fails.  Let's review!

1. Around The World in 12 Books Challenge: 58-67% completed
This book challenged me to read 1 book/month from a different country around the world.  This is COMPLETELY up my alley, and I was super excited for the push to read more internationally-set literature.  I did great with this challenge until we moved in August.  At that point, I got so busy that I was pretty much just reading what I had on hand, most of which was not set in the countries posed in this challenge.

Thus, sadly, I only completed 7 out of the 12 countries on the list.  HOWEVER, I did just pick up John Updike's Brazil, in hopes of being able to check off one more (plus I noticed on my 2013 Reading Map (see below) that South America was severely lacking--so I figured if I was going to add in one more country, it should be from there).  Hopefully I can finish it before the end of the month, bringing me up to 8 out of 12!
My 2013 reading map...shows all of the locations/settings of the novels I've read this year!  Sorry to Australia and South America.  lol.
2. Monthly Keyword Challenge: 100% completed!

This challenge was a lot of fun, and pretty easy to complete, given the flexibility of the rules.  Each month had a list of several words you could choose from, and you had to read a book that contained one of those keywords in the title.  Part of what made this easier for me is that the rules said it was OK to read the books in a different month than when the word was posted...so for example, the book I used for the June keyword was actually read in May.  As a result, I was able to wrap this one up in November.  Woohoo!

3. Mount TBR Challenge: 12.5% completed (ugh)

Oy vey, I did poorly here.  My goal was to read at least 24 books from my at-home TBR pile, and I was trying to only count paper books (not Kindle books), in an effort to clear my shelves a little bit.  I only managed THREE.  I blame this on two things: tons of ARCs (which are so hard for me to resist!) and the rest of these challenges (which often required me to use the library in order to find a book that fit a specific challenge).  Next year I am definitely cutting back on ARCs (and challenges!), so I'm hoping to try this one again.

4. Foodies Read Challenge: 100% completed!

I have no problem reading food books 'til the cows come home.  I finished this one mid-year and still read more of them before the end of the year...easy peasy!

5. Audiobook Challenge: 100% completed!

I am thankful that I finished this one just before we moved.  I used my commutes to/from work to listen to audiobooks all the time, so this was easy to finish by mid-year...but nowadays, I am hardly ever in the car, so I would have found it impossible to complete after I quit my job!  Definitely not one I will be able to do in 2014.

So there you have it: 3 challenges completed, 1 about halfway completed, and 1 miserable fail.  Not so bad, I suppose!  I'm pretty sure that my only challenge for next year will be Mount TBR, but we shall see.

How did your 2013 reading challenges go?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Two Challenges DOWN!

I am pretty proud of myself, reader friends.  Remember all those crazy challenges I signed up for this year?  Of the five, I've already finished TWO!  And it's not even the halfway point of the year.  PATS ON THE BACK, YO.

The two that I finished are:

Audiobook Challenge (hosted by Teresa's Reading Corner)

I signed up to listen to at least 6 audiobooks and finished it when I completed The Round House last week.  I considered upping it to the next level (12 audiobooks), but I am going to lose my work commute in August when we move, so chances are I wouldn't make it.  However, I do hope to squeeze in another 1-2 before then.

Foodies Read Challenge (hosted by Foodies Read)

This wasn't tough, since I love food books so much!  I signed up for Pastry Chef level (4-8 food books) and hit #4 when I finished Pollan's Cooked last week.  I may throw in a few more throughout the year, but probably not enough to get above 8, so I'd say I'm done at this point.

As for my other three challenges...two are going great.  They are both monthly challenges (with a different category to fill each month) so I can't finish them until December, but so far I am right on track with both.  That's the Keyword Challenge and the Around The World in 12 Books Challenge.  As for the fifth one...let's just say the TBR Challenge is going to be a total wash.  I signed up to read 24 books from my TBR pile at home and so far I've read...1.  LAAAAAAAAAAAAME.  But there are just too many good library books and ARCs right now!!  Maybe next year...

Did you sign up for any 2013 challenges?  How are they going so far?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Review: Cooked by Michael Pollan


Title: Cooked
Author: Michael Pollan
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: April 23, 2013
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

In Cooked, Michael Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements—fire, water, air, and earth—to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. Apprenticing himself to a succession of culinary masters, Pollan learns how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer.

Each section of Cooked tracks Pollan’s effort to master a single classic recipe using one of the four elements. A North Carolina barbecue pit master tutors him in the primal magic of fire; a Chez Panisse trained cook schools him in the art of braising; a celebrated baker teaches him how air transforms grain and water into a fragrant loaf of bread; and finally, several mad-genius "fermentos” (a tribe that includes brewers, cheese makers, and all kinds of picklers) reveal how fungi and bacteria can perform the most amazing alchemies of all. The reader learns alongside Pollan, but the lessons move beyond the practical to become an investigation of how cooking involves us in a web of social and ecological relationships. Cooking, above all, connects us.

The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching. Relying upon corporations to process our food means we consume large quantities of fat, sugar, and salt; disrupt an essential link to the natural world; and weaken our relationships with family and friends. In fact, Cooked argues, taking back control of cooking may be the single most important step anyone can take to help make the American food system healthier and more sustainable. Reclaiming cooking as an act of enjoyment and self-reliance, learning to perform the magic of these everyday transformations, opens the door to a more nourishing life.


My Review:

You've all heard me wax poetic about Michael Pollan in the past.  I find his nonfiction works about food to be endlessly fascinating.  If you've never read any of his stuff, probably his two most well-known books (other than this one) are The Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food.  The Omnivore's Dilemma takes a close look at where our modern-day food comes from: everything from our organic (or is it?) produce, to the Cheetos in Aisle 5.  It's eye-opening (and somewhat disturbing) for sure.  On the flip side, In Defense of Food is about how we decide what to eat.  What does the American diet consist of, and is it really good for us?

I highly recommend reading those two books before jumping into Cooked.  Cooked is a great follow-up because as Pollan states in the intro, it bridges the gap between those other two subjects: he already wrote about where food comes from, and what we choose to eat, but what about the way that food gets to the table?  How do we prepare it...and why?  That's what Cooked attempts to examine.

The book is divided into 4 chapters: Fire (grilling/barbecue), Water (braising/pot meals), Air (bread making), and Earth (fermentation, such as pickling and beer brewing).  Pollan argues that lot of our meals these days are ready-made by corporations: frozen dinners, boxed cereals, instant mashed potatoes, etc.  What people define as "cooking" these days is iffy at best...and I'll admit it, I say that I "cooked" dinner on a night when I boiled up a pot of pasta and threw a glop of Ragu on top.  Is that really cooking though?  Wouldn't cooking be a more apt description if I made the noodles, or crushed up the tomatoes for the sauce?  Pollan attempts to get back to the basics with these four methods of cooking--methods that a lot of us have outsourced to the food service industry in the last 50-ish years.

I was enthralled by every chapter, but unexpectedly, the one that got most of my attention was the last  (Earth, or fermentation).  I honestly thought this one would drag a little bit for me.  I'm not particularly interested in pickling, and I'm familiar with brewing already because my husband has done it, so I figured I wouldn't glean much from that section.  However, Pollan includes a deep discussion about how "fermentos" (a subculture of fermenters that believe in using natural (ie not sanitized) fermentation processes to make things like sauerkraut, pickles, cheese, etc) are adamant about the health benefits of their products.  In the world of antibacterial hand soap and throwing out any cheese with the smallest dot of blue fuzz on it, many of us have lost the "good" bacteria in our GI tracts that we need in order to digest things well and ward off infections.  He makes some really great, well-researched points, and I found myself reading half the chapter aloud to my husband ("listen to THIS part, OMG you will thank me later for enlightening you!").

The book as a whole will make you feel smarter, while also providing some entertainment.  Pollan found a person (or several people) in each chapter to help him try his hand at their cooking techniques, often with unexpected results.  (And often with delicious results...prepare to feel voracious after reading.)  His personal experiences, paired with the historical and scientific information he has gathered, makes for an excellent read.

Have I hooked you yet?  Cooked is an awesome nonfiction pick for anyone interested in the food they prepare.  At the very least, it will inspire you to look at your oven in a whole new way.  You do have to be prepared for some history lessons, as well as some food science, but they're mixed so seamlessly into the rest of the narrative that I doubt you'll be bothered.

Now then...off to perfect my braising technique.

Have you read any of Pollan's books?  What did you think?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

(Cook)Book Review: Weelicious by Catherine McCord



Title: Weelicious
Author: Catherine McCord
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads:

Every parent knows how difficult it is to get to get kids eating happily and healthily. Catherine McCord has the answer: Weelicious. Creator of the wildly popular blog Weelicious.com, Catherine, who honed her cooking skills at Manhattan's Institute of Culinary Education, strongly believes in the "one family/one meal" idea--preparing a single, scrumptious meal the entire family can sit down and enjoy together rather than having to act as "short order cook" for kids who each want something different. In Weelicious, she offers dozens of recipes and tips for creating quick, easy, healthy, and fun food that moms, dads, and young children of any age will absolutely adore--from the most persnickety infants to the pickiest grade-schoolers.

My Review:

When I started this blog, I never thought I would review a cookbook.  Mostly because I don't read cookbooks--I may look through them for a good recipe now and then, but I don't read the intros or pour through all the recipes or anything like that.  Also, let's remember that I am, for the most part, utterly hopeless in the kitchen.

However, after continuous battles with Small Fry (aka World's Pickiest Eater), someone mentioned Weelicious to me and I decided to read it, back to front.  Because I'm willing to try anything at this point.  I had never been to weelicious.com, but I knew about it and had heard a few raves.  Catherine McCord is supposed to be the guru of curing Picky Toddler syndrome, and I hoped she could help me out.

Small Fry cheerfully dismantles the Huevos Rancheros I made for him.  Mother is not pleased.
The philosophy of Weelicious is that you should get your kids involved with food/cooking in your house as early as possible.  You would hate it if you never got to choose what you ate for a meal, right?  If it was just plunked down in front of you three times a day?  That's what most kids experience with their parents (something that never occurred to me before, but yes, I'll concede that point).  Catherine McCord suggests fixing this dynamic in a few ways.  For example, letting your kids assist with grocery shopping, or press the button on the food processor, or choose between two different meal options for dinner that night.

McCord does NOT advocate the philosophy that a lot of other parents have suggested to me:  hiding vegetables in other food (like making brownies but mixing carrots/broccoli/whatever in the batter).  She says that this is deceitful and that we should treat our kids with more honesty than this method suggests.  Okay, I get that too, and I'll admit I've tried this a few times (rarely with favorable results anyway).  I also like her reminder that just because YOU don't like a food, doesn't mean your kid won't--so add variety to their diet by letting them try everything.

Also (I know, I'm recapping everything for you here, but there is so much to share!), McCord has a section debunking the "my kid only eats chicken nuggets!"-type myths.  Your kid only eats those things if you make them available.  I will admit I have totally fallen into this trap before, with things like mac n cheese and fish sticks.  The book reminded me that Small Fry WILL eat other things, as long as I don't resort to these easy options every time he gets persnickety.

Before the recipes, McCord has a large section that talks about the importance of buying organic as much as possible, something that I understand and believe in, but I continue to maintain (despite McCord's claims otherwise) that it is near-impossible to feed a family affordably if you buy all organic.  However, I like the spirit of her message and I do think it's good to keep it in mind as much as feasibly possible.

So what about the recipes?

Well, I made a point of trying quite a few of them during my 4-week loan of the book from the library. Some went over GREAT with Small Fry--others, not so much.  He was a particular fan of the Stuffed French Toast, as well as the pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Pesto (which is REALLY FREAKING DELICIOUS and easy to make).  Hubs and I loved the Shrimp Tacos, but Small Fry was not a fan (picked out all the shrimp...sigh).
Stuffed French Toast = NOMS
Some of the recipes were okay, but lacked flavor, in my opinion--the Brown Rice and Veggie Casserole was good, but a little bland.  Same goes for the Slow Cooker Apple Streusel Oatmeal, and the Oatmeal On The Go Bars.  They were good, but in McCord's quest to keep extra sugar out of the recipes, you get kind of a bland outcome.  I ended up adding some brown sugar to the streusel oatmeal, and topping the oatmeal bars with some raspberry preserves to liven them up.

Overall: Weelicious did not completely cure Small Fry's finicky food preferences.  He still picks everything green off his plate with brain-surgeon-like precision.  And I don't necessarily think that all of McCord's suggestions for rehabbing your kid's eating habits are as easy as she makes them sound.  However, this did give me some great suggestions for how to include him in the kitchen, and add more variety to his diet.  I've been really good about not running to the mac n cheese every time he throws a fit, and that alone is a win for me.  I'd say that if you have a picky eater in your household, Weelicious is worth a perusal--you might find a few new, healthy go-to meals for your kiddos!

Other reviews of Weelicious:
Reading For Sanity
Fed Up With Lunch
Cafe Johnsonia

Do you have any favorite cookbooks?  Or really smart ways to get my son to eat green things?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Review: Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson


Title: Yes, Chef
Author: Marcus Samuelsson
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: June 26, 2012
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

It begins with a simple ritual: Every Saturday afternoon, a boy who loves to cook walks to his grandmother’s house and helps her prepare a roast chicken for dinner. The grandmother is Swedish, a retired domestic. The boy is Ethiopian and adopted, and he will grow up to become the world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson. This book is his love letter to food and family in all its manifestations.

Marcus Samuelsson was only three years old when he, his mother, and his sister—all battling tuberculosis—walked seventy-five miles to a hospital in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Adaba. Tragically, his mother succumbed to the disease shortly after she arrived, but Marcus and his sister recovered, and one year later they were welcomed into a loving middle-class white family in Göteborg, Sweden. It was there that Marcus’s new grandmother, Helga, sparked in him a lifelong passion for food and cooking with her pan-fried herring, her freshly baked bread, and her signature roast chicken. From a very early age, there was little question what Marcus was going to be when he grew up.

Yes, Chef chronicles Marcus Samuelsson’s remarkable journey from Helga’s humble kitchen to some of the most demanding and cutthroat restaurants in Switzerland and France, from his grueling stints on cruise ships to his arrival in New York City, where his outsize talent and ambition finally come together at Aquavit, earning him a coveted New York Times three-star rating at the age of twenty-four. But Samuelsson’s career of “chasing flavors,” as he calls it, had only just begun—in the intervening years, there have been White House state dinners, career crises, reality show triumphs and, most important, the opening of the beloved Red Rooster in Harlem. At Red Rooster, Samuelsson has fufilled his dream of creating a truly diverse, multiracial dining room—a place where presidents and prime ministers rub elbows with jazz musicians, aspiring artists, bus drivers, and nurses. It is a place where an orphan from Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, living in America, can feel at home.


My Review:

You all already know how much I love food memoirs.  I fell in love with them after I tore through most of Anthony Bourdain's.  So it's no surprise that when I heard Marcus Samuelsson was releasing a memoir in 2012, I knew I would have to push it up my reading list.

For those of you unfamiliar with Marcus Samuelsson, he is one of the so-called "Food Network Stars".  He is often a judge on shows like Chopped, and he also competes in other shows (like Next Iron Chef, which he totally got booted from too early, in my ever-so-humble opinion).  I have always loved watching him cook on TV, because he brings some extremely unique international flavor to his dishes.  This book gave me the opportunity to delve into the origins of those skills.

As a memoir, I think the tone was perfect.  There are parts of the book where Samuelsson sounds a bit too cocky--but, he admits as much partway through it anyway.  And you'd probably be pretty cocky too, if you had the rise to food stardom that he did.  He's earned his swagger.  However, despite the arrogance that occasionally leaked through, it didn't turn me off because Samuelsson also spends large sections of the book admitting to his life's mistakes.  He may be near-perfect in the kitchen, but that has not translated to all areas of his life.  He has cheated on girlfriends, been a terrible (though trying to reform) father, and had one restaurant venture that was a total flop.  His ability to frankly tell all areas of his story (personal and professional, success and failure) brought a strong sense of honesty to the text.  It also helps you envision Samuelsson's journey toward maturity throughout his life, which is crucial in a memoir that spans so much time.

One aspect of Samuelsson's personal journey that particularly fascinated me was his racial identity.  He is truly a "man of the world": born in Ethiopia, adopted and raised in Sweden, culinary training in the US, Austria, France, Switzerland...the list goes on.  In each situation, his racial identity was challenged and reshaped.  For example, in Sweden, he says he is often seen as part of the "new Sweden", a more modern and multicultural population in that country.  On the flip side, in the US, he is grouped either as an African American, or an immigrant, which carries different meaning than it does in other countries.  He has taken these various histories and made them a part of himself.  That is best illustrated in his latest restaurant creation, Red Rooster, which is based in Harlem and attempts to bring together the enormous variety of cultures there.  Samuelsson places a high importance on helping black culinary students find success in the kitchen, and his passion for this shines through on the page.

And the food?  (This IS a food memoir...I have to talk about the food!)  The food will make your mouth water.  Reading the descriptions of his various menus and kitchen experiments will have you running to the phone to make a dinner reservation, ASAP.  Samuelsson's creativity with international ingredients is truly amazing, and it is intriguing to see how that skill developed as he moved to new restaurants and lived in different countries.

Overall: this is a fantastic memoir, for foodies and non-foodies alike.  Even if you've never seen a single second of Marcus Samuelsson on TV, I guarantee that his personal journey will be enough for you to delve into his book.  And the next time I'm in NYC, you better believe I will be trying to make a reservation at Red Rooster.

Other reviews of Yes, Chef:
A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
Black Girl Lost...In A Book
Buckling Bookshelves

Have you read any good food memoirs lately?  If foodie nonfiction's not your thing, do you think you'd give one a try anyway if the personal side of the memoir was interesting?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

So how are those challenges going? *squirm*

Remember all those awesome reading challenges that I was posting about late last year?  Just to refresh your memory, psycho-me signed up for 5 challenges for 2013.  Now that we're 25% into the year, I figured I would keep myself honest by reporting my progress (or lack thereof) to my reading audience.

Without further ado!

Challenge #1: Around The World in 12 Books Challenge
Read 1 book a month, each from a different specified country.
I'm not doing too bad here.  I kept up with the January and February countries, but fell a little behind with March (I have just a few pages left in my Wales novel now, so only a few days behind!).  I am hoping to read my Fiji book on time this month, and get back on track.

Current Grade: B+

Challenge #2: Monthly Keyword Challenge
Read 1 book a month, each with a different keyword in the title.
Pretty much the same as Challenge #1.  Did great with January/February, but my Wales book is doubling as my March keyword book, so I will be a few days late getting this one finished up.  Looking to get back on track in April!

Current Grade: B+

Challenge #3: Foodies Read Challenge
Read 4 food-related books.
I've completed 1 out of the 4 books that I signed up to read here, so I guess I'm right on track.  I have eleventy billion food books checked out from the library right now (as you can see here), so hopefully I will tuck another one under my belt soon.

Current Grade: A

Challenge #4: Audiobook Challenge
Listen to at least 6 audiobooks.
Doing awesome on this one!!  I only signed up to finish 6 audiobooks this year, but I've already done 4.  It helps that I listen to them so much during my commutes.  I may actually raise the bar here and go for the next level up (12).

Current Grade: A++

Challenge #5: Mount TBR Challenge
Read at least 24 books from my at-home TBR pile.
This one is going to be a total wash.  I have only read ONE out of the 24 books I was hoping to take off my TBR pile this year.  There is no way I'm going to finish this one, especially given all the review copies that I have coming up in May/June.  I'll honestly be surprised if I make it to 10 by the end of the year.  And this is all not to mention the TONS of new books I've added to my possession the last few months.  FAIL!

Current Grade: F-

Readers, did you sign up for any reading challenges this year?  How are they going so far?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Library Blackout...has this happened to you?

Here's a pic of my library (taken from the second floor looking down towards the reference area).  Isn't it purty?:

I swear, there is something in the air at this place.

Every time I walk in there with ONE particular book in mind, I come out with that book, plus eleventy billion others that I have no idea when I will find the time to read.

Take, for example, last week.  I went to the library to pick up How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn.  I really, truly, try to limit my library books lately, because I have SO SO many unread books at home (not to mention on my Kindle).  But I NEEDED this book for my Around the World in 12 Books challenge.  So borrowing was imperative.

I was kind of in a hurry, so I walked in, located the book, and done.  I was walking towards the checkout desk, thinking about my other book challenges this year, and remembered the Foodies Read challenge.  And I thought, "Huh, I've only done one foodie book so far this year...maybe I'll pick up one of those too.  JUST ONE."

I wander over to the nonfiction area and peruse the food/cooking section.  Suddenly I am inundated with choices.  So many good choices.  I CAN'T HANDLE ALL THE CHOICES.

It was at this point that I blacked out.


When I came to, I was in my car with How Green Was My Valley, as well as The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain, Beaten, Seared, and Sauced by Jonathan Dixon, and Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton.  Also, Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson is on my holds list now, apparently.

WHAT HAPPENED IN THERE?  I will never know.  I can only assume the librarians drugged me and sent me packing with enough food-related reading material to cover me for most of the spring season.  They're a suspicious bunch, librarians.

Ah well, at-home TBR pile.  We will meet again another day.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Review: Paris, My Sweet by Amy Thomas



 
Title: Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate)
Author: Amy Thomas
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication Date: February 1, 2012
Source: personal purchase (e-book)

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Part love letter to New York, part love letter to Paris, and total devotion to all things sweet. Paris, My Sweet is a personal and moveable feast that’s a treasure map for anyone who loves fresh cupcakes and fine chocolate, New York and Paris, and life in general. It’s about how the search for happiness can be as fleeting as a sliver of cheesecake and about how the life you’re meant to live doesn’t always taste like the one you envisioned. Organized into a baker’s dozen of delicacies (and the adventures they inspired) that will tempt readers’ appetites, Paris, My Sweet is something to savor.

My Review:

Finding my first book for the Around The World in 12 Books challenge was a cinch.  This month's country (France) has been written about from top to bottom, so the recommendations were endless.  However, the one I eventually went with was Paris, My Sweet (mentioned to me by Andi from Estella's Revenge--thanks Andi!).  I thought this was a perfect choice, because it doubles as a book for the Foodies Read challenge (nom).

Paris, My Sweet is the nonfiction account of advertising copywriter/food blogger Amy Thomas during her yearlong stint working in Paris.  After a semester of study abroad in the City of Light during college, she dreamed of eventually returning.  She got the chance at the age of 36 when her job temporarily relocated her there from her longtime home in New York City.  During that year, she experienced all aspects of the city, but especially the ah-may-zing pastries and desserts.  Amy recaps how she ate her way through Paris, while also connecting her food experiences to her personal ups and downs as an expat in France.

I feel like I have to review this as two separate books.  Because first, there's Paris itself: the history, the ambiance, and the food.  OH, THE FOOD.  Amy Thomas pulls no punches when she's describing the positively decadent chocolate, croissants, macarons, cupcakes, et al throughout the city.  I was ravenous before the end of the first chapter.  Each section usually focuses on one type of food (the chocolate chip cookie, madeleines, French toast, etc) and how she experienced it in Paris--along with how it has (or has not) taken off in the NYC restaurant scene.  The contrast between the two cities makes this better than your average food or travel memoir.  (Plus, she provides addresses for every bakery and restaurant she mentions--major score.)

And even beyond the descriptions of the food itself, I felt myself falling in love with the French method of cuisine.  "Fresh, local, and delicious was not the marketing mantra du jour in Paris.  It's just the way it was."  Thomas emphasizes how her Parisians neighbors treasured high-quality ingredients and freshly-prepared dishes, something that is unfortunately undervalued in the US.  It made me yearn for a 3-hour lunch and some local wine.  GAH, divine.

So yes, as far as Paris and the food--this book gets a major thumbs up.

However, then there is the OTHER part of the book: Amy's personal experiences.  To put it plainly, Thomas is just awful at expressing her feelings in a relateable way for readers.  Is she a poor writer structurally?  No.  But she has a complete lack of self-awareness that ends up making her sound spoiled, whiny, and outrageously stuck-up.  She spends the first few chapters recounting how phenomenal her life is: awesome apartment in NYC's East Village, hoppin' social life, amazing job.  Then she gets transferred to the city of her dreams, where she lands a ridiculously perfect apartment (which she doesn't have to pay rent for), gets to work on the Louis Vuitton account, and spends her downtime eating copious amounts of chocolate and jetsetting around Europe.  At one point, she says, "It was almost stupid how picture-perfect my new life was."  And all I could think was, EXACTLY.  Thomas shows positively no humility in these descriptions, and as a reader, I lost all interest in her as a result.  (Best part: when she complains about how she had to work SO MUCH in the summer (wait, like the rest of us?)...but oh yeah, she did have time to vacation in the Loire Valley and the Cote d'Azur.  Oh, and she got to watch the Tour de France from her office.  Please excuse me while I cry all the tears for you.)  Later in the memoir, she starts to talk about some relationship and health problems that she encountered, but by then I found her so eyeroll-worthy, it took me a long time to sympathize.

Also, Thomas breaks a well-known rule of Girl Law: if you're a skinny girl, you don't tell the world about how fat you feel.  I can say this, because I am a somewhat skinny girl, and I know better than to complain publicly about a fat day.  I will not get sympathy.  I keep that sh*t between me and my husband and/or BFF, who are the two humans who will listen to me about it without punching me in the face.  Thomas, however, spends the entire book complaining about how "fat" Parisian chocolate made her, when it is plain from every Googled photo of her ever that that is not the case.  Again, she loses reader sympathy here.

So, overall--as a food memoir (especially a dessert memoir), this book rocks my socks.  I am really glad that I bought a copy, because I'd love to take it with me if I ever visit Paris--all the best foodie spots are mentioned!  And Paris, as a setting, is gorgeously described.  It made me want to hop a plane ASAP.  However, as a personal memoir, Paris, My Sweet falls on its face.  Thomas needs to re-think how she presents herself to her audience.  She had some good stories to tell, but she just doesn't go about it with the right tone.

Foodies--rejoice!  This one is a hit.  But memoirists, you may want to take a pass.

What are your favorite books set in Paris?  How about food memoirs?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

More Challenges!

OK y'all, I signed up for 4 more 2013 reading challenges.  Everybody, STOP POSTING AWESOME CHALLENGES.  I can't stop signing up for them.

I'm really done now though.  I already told you about the Monthly Keyword Challenge, and now I also am declaring:

Around The World in 12 Books Challenge, hosted by Giraffe Days
This is going to be SO FUN.  I love to travel, and doing it through books is fun too!

Mount TBR Challenge, hosted by My Reader's Block

I've signed up to read Mont Blanc (at least 24 books from my TBR pile).

Foodies Read Challenge, hosted by Foodies Read
 
I've signed up for Pastry Chef level (4-8 food-related books).

Audiobook Challenge, hosted by Teresa's Reading Corner

I've signed up for Flirting (listening to at least 6 audiobooks).

No more challenges, Kelly.  NO MORE.

(But look at them all...aren't they pretty...)

You can keep track of my progress next year on my 2013 Challenges page.
 
Imagination Designs