Book Reviews

Book Review: Picnic in Provence

A while back, I found out that Elizabeth Bard, author of the extremely enjoyable travel/food memoir Lunch in Paris, had left her beloved Paris and relocated south to a small village in Provence. And not just that, she and her husband opened an ice cream shop in their new home as well. While Bard’s life may seem like a make believe kind of story, it’s very much a true thing.

In a sense Picnic in Provence picks up where she left off in her debut work. She’s on the verge of having her first child and also at a crossroads in her life, where she feels she still doesn’t have her her raison d’etre. They end up in the Provençal village of  Céreste as Bard isn’t interested in getting on a plane this late in her pregnancy, so they journey south from Paris for a baby moon. While there she and her husband are immediately charmed by Céreste and end up putting in an offer for a house. And just like that, Bard finds herself being the outsider again, only this time it’s not to a new country, but rather a new region and more importantly, a new way of life (life in a Provençal village is drastically different from what you have in Paris).

Book Review: Picnic in Provence

Perhaps it’s because she’s American, perhaps it’s due to the fact that I see myself in Bard (and more importantly, envy her new adopted life), but I just adore her writing. It’s so fresh and fluid and it almost effortlessly transports you the reader to the places she’s discussing. You can easily imagine the many quirky and lovable neighbors she writes about or the bevy of beautiful colors on display at the local markets, the taste of the ingredients that grow in abundance there. I especially loved when she wrote about her visit to the local Christmas market as a Christmas market anywhere in Europe is something I’m dying to experience. And just like Lunch in Paris, Picnic in Provence features a slew of (mostly) great sounding recipes I would love to try sometime (sorry, but I can’t get excited about cod).

In a fashion somewhat similar to how she and her family end up living in Céreste, she becomes an ice cream proprietor. While I can’t imagine the work ever being easy when trying to start a business from scratch, I certainly enjoyed reading about the many fulfilling and frustrating things that are required (especially when doing so in a culture that is not your native one). When it comes to ice cream, I definitely like unique flavor concoctions and only in France would you see choices like honey and thyme, rosemary olive-oil pine nut, or gasp, black truffle (and no, I’m not referring to chocolate ones). The one flavor I’d love to try to make myself is Bard’s One Thousand and One Nights flavor which features ras-al-hanout, a North African spice. Bard describes it as tasting ” a little like chai but with a kick.”

If you’ve read Bard’s first work, I have no doubt that you’ll love her second. And if you haven’t read either, I highly recommend you do so. Not to mention, if I ever get to embark on the Provence road trip I’ve always wanted to take, you can bet I’ll be making a detour and searching out Scaramouche, the name of the Bard’s shop.

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