Lunch in Paris and
Picnic in Provence
by Elizabeth Bard
“When I first tasted home made mayonnaise in Paris, the heavens opened and the
angels sang,” Elizabeth Bard told me.
Elizabeth, studying in London, meets Frenchman Gwendal at a conference. After emailing a few months, Elizabeth goes to Paris for a rendezvous et voila! It’s love at first bite in the French restaurant where she has ordered steak. We read in Lunch in Paris, “But something happened as I sliced the first bite—no resistance, none at all…I must have uttered an audible gasp of pleasure.” And Elizabeth falls in love—with French food, that is. She likes Gwendal a lot.
Elizabeth shared her thoughts with me about that moment. “This was a sublime moment when everything comes together: person, place food. I fell into a magical moment.”
Her two books are about falling in love and finding the transcendent in food and in France. For her, marketing, food prep and eating around the table are the way to love and the sublime. “Food helps crystalize everything,” she said. “I like to go to the supermarket and see what the products are. My family had to forcibly remove me from the farmers’ markets.”
She moves to Paris to be with Gwendal. Not all is so smooth. The language is not easy and neither raw American ambition nor American sized portions are admired. “Nothing presented more opportunities for misunderstandings than dinner,” she writes. It all comes down to “what another person considers normal,“ Elizabeth says. And that is totally cultural. While cultural differences do not go away, she continued, “your understanding of them deepens.”
Leaving Paris after 8 years, Elizabeth, Gwendal and her infant son, Alexandre, moved to a village in Provence about 5 years ago, where Elizabeth and her husband open a home made ice cream shop. The small town is a tight community with a lack of anonymity, which creates an intimacy that Elizabeth loves, although she admits that the fishmonger knows more about her travel habits than immigration. “I don’t shop alone; I don’t eat alone. Every gesture involving food is woven so tightly into the social fabric.” Like many Americans who buy local, she loves cooking following the local harvest.
Now after 15 years of living in France and married to Gwendal, she has found a balance, although she has a foot in each culture. She adopts the French meal time custom of never grabbing food in front of a computer or in a car. “Meals are meant to be meals, sitting down at a table with people. Eating together is a fundamental social activity, the most important part of social fabric.”
Included in the book is a moving account of the memories inherent in the Passover meal. Elizabeth said, “Passover is a metaphor for the kind of writer that I am. Meals can and do tell stories.” Meals are symbolic of so much that is good for Elizabeth. “The longer I’m away the clearer it becomes. Home can be something as vast as a country, as holy as a temple, or as simple as a cake.”
For a Francophile and a foodie like me, reading Elizabeth Bard is a treat. So is making her recipes. Elizabeth wanted to share with you her Individual Moulten Chocolate Cake (Moelleux au Chocolat “Kitu”). We have featured this recipe on our main blog page.