Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard - Part II with interview

Though Les Miserables is still going (although slowly and frustratingly as I keep falling asleep while trying to make any kind of progress), Lunch in Paris must be considered my favorite Paris in July 2012 experience.  As Part I makes clear, I loved this memoir/cookbook and especially looked forward to trying some of the recipes.  Though I promised to try her Individual Molten Chocolate Cakes, I ended up having the time and ingredients for the simple but lovely Yogurt Cake.  The recipe called for whole milk plain yogurt, and though I have bought it before, I couldn't get it at the two stores I was at this weekend, so I had to make do with low-fat.  Also, the recipe called for canned apricots, but I followed the notes at the end of the recipe, which encouraged the reader to experiment with whatever fruit feels good.  I had fresh peaches on hand, so I used those.  It looked awfully pretty (although perhaps they were supposed to be chopped rather than sliced?):

I was curious as this cake baked because it called for the zest of 1 lemon, which adds quite a bit of lemon flavor.  It wasn't quite as pretty baked because the peaches were absorbed and distributed into the cake, but it was quite good.
And yes, it has a distinct lemon flavor, which makes it more of a lemon cake than a yogurt cake to me.  Though I liked it, I'd be interested to see how it is without the lemon.  Finally, I fear I overbaked it slightly as it wasn't as tender as I had hoped.  Overall, a recipe worth playing with.

Perhaps more exciting than the cake is this Q&A with Elizabeth Bard herself.  She graciously agreed to answer some questions for us, so enjoy!~

SC: Lunch in Paris chronicles your time discovering three significant loves: your husband, food, and Paris.  Would you share a bit more about those early days in Paris?  What was it like to discover this most famous city and to find yourself at home there?
EB: There was the beauty - and of course, the strangeness of it all. Obviously, food was a big part of my early integration into French culture, which is why Lunch in Paris is also a cookbook. I used food to welcome people. During my first years in Paris, my halting French often made me feel invisible. My husband’s friends didn’t know if I was intelligent, charming, or dull as a lamp post, but they did know I made an excellent moelleux au chocolat.
There were times when I used food to hide. Hours into a marathon French dinner party, my head fuzzy with wine, it was easier to retreat to the kitchen to check the roast than to say: “I’m mentally exhausted and considering sticking my head in the oven.”
Food helped me to build relationships. Falling in love with Gwendal was inseperable from falling in love with Paris. If I live to be a 167, I'll never forget those first summer evenings, walking by the river, talking - eating wild strawberry sorbet.

SC:  The book provided some insight into your struggle to find your place in the professional world once you moved to Paris.  How difficult was this in-between time, and how did you emerge from it?  
EB: For a type-A New Yorker, the in-between time was extremely difficult, full of self-doubt. When you switch cultures, you lose a lot of your most valuable tools - articulate language skills, writing abilities, . What works on one side of the ocean doesn't necessarily work on the other - ambiiton is a fairly dirty word, doors don't open in the same way, even the definition of good writing and "literature" are different. I have been very fortunate to construct a career that allows me to continue to discover France, but where I can use my education and American-style confidence to connect with an Anglophone and international audience.

SC:  Translation (or a lack thereof) was a fairly significant part of the story, especially in the beginning when meeting Gwendal's family and friends.  How does having and using multiple languages affect you now?  
EB: I'm fluent in spoken French these days, though my writing still resembles that of a 3rd grader. Having multiple languages is so rich: you don't just change words, you change worlds, cultural landscapes. I find that some concepts (work, ambition, procrastination) are best expressed in English, some (joie de vivre, a certain value in time and pleasure) in French.

SC: The epilogue tells us you and your family have moved to Provence.  Obviously, a move like that would bring many changes.  What do you love about living in Provence?  What do you miss most from Paris living?
EB: My mother is amazed that a musuem-going, sushi-loving, window shopping city girl finds herself so happy in Provence. But it is absolutely perfect for this time in our lives. Our son is growing up picking cherries off the trees. We are spending more time together as a family, and slowly becoming part of a close-knit community. It's not about keeping up with the Joneses. And the tomatoes...I could write a sonnet about the tomatoes.

SC:  You seem to be a fairly fearless cook.  Is there anything you are still wary of?
EB: Yeast still scares me. And I had to get a lesson on how to put together my food processor. 

SC:  Do you have any new projects in the works?
EB: I'm currently working on a project about life and cooking in Provence - and I continue to share our adventures on
I hope you'll join us!

SC:  When advising visitors to Paris, what are your "must-see" or "must-eat" places?
EB: Here's a link to my Paris "Top Ten"!

Thanks so much, Elizabeth, for your generous spirit and for such a fun book.  

If you have read Lunch in Paris, feel free to let me know, and I'll link it up here.  And if you haven't read Lunch in Paris, do so!  And then dream of Paris in July and all the other months of delicious dishes and fearless living.

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