May 19, 2019

American Must-Reads: Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris

posted on: Thursday January 17, 2019

Life is too short to read everything. It may even be too short to major in american studies, history, or English. This column, brought to you by professors in american studies, history, and English, highlights the books you simply cannot let pass, whatever your major. Start your list! 

by: Dr. René Alexander Orquiza Assistant Professor of History

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PHOTO COURTESY OF APPETITEFORBOOKS/WORDPRESS

For the best meal of your life, New Yorker writer A.J. Liebling has some simple advice: it helps if you are young and broke. His remembrance in  Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris of the meals he savored during his junior year abroad in 1920s Paris is packed full of details any foodie would love: multiple course dinners lasting four hours, tableside carving service on porcelain plates, rich sauces that had taken days to prepare, and waiters dressed in immaculately tailored uniforms.

Liebling’s Paris was tragically ephemeral, a city deep in post-World War I depression and inevitably doomed from the imminent arrival of World War II. But French pride still persisted in food. A strong dollar and a weak Franc meant Liebling could partake in one four-star meal a month—if he sacrificed eating well for the other 29 days. He had a part-time job as a reporter and ostensibly took classes at the Sorbonne on French literature and history after having graduated from Columbia. In retrospect, it is clear that his real classroom was the dining rooms of Paris. His joyful descriptions of conversations with waiters, friendships he struck with restaurateurs, and the anticipation and thinking behind what he was going to order for his monthly extravagance shows his deepest thoughts concerned his stomach.

We have all heard the expression “you are what you eat,” but Between Meals tells of a deeper message. If you spend a lot of time eating sparsely, the time you eat well can be a window into the person you want to be.

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