A few years ago I read Elizabeth Bard's Lunch in Paris. It spoke to me at the time. She was recently married—I was recently married. She fell in love with someone outside of her culture—I fell in love with a Midwesterner (I'm a New Mexican). She loved to cook in her small kitchen—ditto! You get the point. She was my new literary best friend. I enjoyed her nuances into French life, her ability to look outside herself and see the larger picture and, most importantly, laugh about it all. Now Bard has written her second memoir in which she tells of her journey into first-time parenthood the French way. I myself have just become a parent for the first time and, while we really aren't similar in lifestyle (I wish I could live on the French countryside!), I felt a kinship once again.
In Picnic in Provence Bard continues her love story. It begins with Elizabeth and her husband, Gwendal, preparing for the birth of their son, Alexander, in Paris. Bard tells of the fascinating differences between the French and American birth industry and how French women generally choose to raise their children. French parents introduce their children to their adult cuisine from a very young age—a French child may know the taste of goose pâté before their first birthday. This is not however Bringing Up Bébé, and Bard quickly moves on to her personal story of wanting to spend more time as a family and the couple making the decision to move to the country. In the process, her husband becomes less enchanted with his film industry job, and they embark on a journey and an adventure in working to open an artisan ice cream shop.
Peppered with new recipes throughout, Picnic in Provence is a delightful look at French life from an outsider who has worked diligently to become an insider. Those who have enjoyed the memoirs of Peter Mayle (also set in Provence) will enjoy Bard's perceptive descriptions of the quirky members of her new community. Elizabeth Bard's books are a true treat and great for a stay-cation. Bon Appetit!