Harper Collins, 2002
Memoir, english, 296 pages.
Susan Loomis takes readers to the enchanted journey of her life in a small french town. Her love in cooking brought her, already a chef and a food writer, to take a decision to have a year’s experience as a stagiaire, or apprentice, at a cooking school for English-speaking students in Paris. For her, it was like a dream — working all day at the school, taking cooking class at night with French chefs, and living in Paris on top of it. That’s how her adventure begins. But this book is not about her life and experience in Paris, rather it is about the time when she had moved to a small town, Louviers, in Normandy region, just about an hour train from Paris to the north-west. A summer short work at a house of a family near Louviers introduced her to village french life, and to its cooking, its traditional recipes and stories. A relationship with the family, which was at first seemed distant and formal, had become so memorable and long lasting. After having gone back home to US for several years, Susan went back again to France with her own little family for a new writing job on french food and cooking.
A house on rue Tatin in Louviers became their home — an old typical french house in the center of the town, just beside the church Notre-dame. The picture on the cover of this book is the real home. Just seeing that picture made me suddenly miss my small town french living… (before living in Paris, I was living in a small town in the south west of France, and until now small town french living has always a special place in my heart, whatever people say about the grandiose of Paris..). Now, as residents of this small town, they encountered enchanted discovery of day-to-day rural french life — walk through the markets, talk to the butcher and the baker, get used to the french systems, or play diplomacy (or straightforwardness) with their neighbors.
Living in a small town means living well with good ingredients on day-to-day basis, the “l’art de vivre“, knowing how to live well. I liked best the chapter “Morning in Louviers” which describe her routine morning walks, from her toddler son’s nursery, to the boulangerie (the baker), and her walking around back home with short visits to a small boutique or a perfumerie. I also loved much her writing on french saturday markets, with all the description of farmer’s fresh produces and the unique characters of the sellers. Just to make this book more delicious, each chapter is ended by two delicious recipes, that made me instantly taste the soft creamy normandy butter and cheese, or the sweetness of caramelized apple tart…
I agree with the endorsement by Adam Gopnik for this book that says that “where many writers merely love France, Susan Loomis knows it…“. Yes, this book is not that kind of cliche book about France, because Susan Loomis knows exactly its smells, people and manners. And the ending of this book is just so naturally sweet… She has written several books on cooking and continues sharing her passions on food and cooking in a french way by opening her cooking classes, in Paris and also at her home on rue Tatin. Check out her web www.onruetatin.com to enter into her passionate universe.
A splendid and delicious reading.
Paris, 2 August 2010