David Lebovitz is a pretty famous American this side of the Atlantic (and by this side, I mean my side, the east side, baby. Insert a gangster hand signal here). Famous to other Americans, that is. I don’t think the French have caught on yet, but if they have, I’m sure they’re learning new things too, about the traditions, recipes, and restaurants of France. That’s how much of an insider David is, when it comes to French food.
My first David moment happened in high school, when I went over to a friend’s house for mocha pudding cake and a Jane Austen movie marathon on the BBC. After a magical evening, I left with the recipe, photocopied from a slender chocolate cookbook. The impact the author would come to have on my life remained unbeknownst to me.
Fast forward several years later, and I own his ice cream cookbook, have his blog bookmarked along with a subcategory of favorite recipes, receive his newsletter, and reference him constantly. “David says this… I read it on David’s… David said that.” Does it get annoying? Yes, even for myself. But renouncing David is like trying to avoid Google. It’s stupid, inefficient, and simply not done.
Take last night, for instance. After inviting friends over for a traditional Swiss dinner of raclette on potatoes, I realized I didn’t know a think about raclette (or potatoes—blehck). So I Davided-it. Voila.
So after living in Paris for several months, fully reliant on David-toids, immersed in David-posts, and desynthesized to David-quotes, I finally realized I still hadn’t read his memoir. (Signed, I should mention, by David-the-real-person-in-flesh-and-blood-yes-he-does-exist.) So I picked up The Sweet Life in Paris and read it.
It was fine. I don’t say that as an insult, not at all, but rather with the revelation that David (get ready) is a normal person. He’s an American living in Paris, just like me, and he gets lost in the same department store, gets clogs in his toilet on the top floor of an old building with bad pipes, and gets a kick out of the day-to-day differences between French and American life.
In my own rooftop chambre de bonne, I’m so scared of my toilet flooding that I don’t even flush paper down. David, however, takes some risks:
My toilet, which was on its last gasps when I moved in, is a repository for mistakes, which I’m sure isn’t helping it maintain what’s left of its vigor. Like the French, it’s sometimes a bit rebellious and fragile, and I now know it’s a wise idea to check to make sure everything’s gone after you flush: a failed batch of grass-green mint chip ice cream hadn’t quite made it down when a friend came by. Upon exiting the bathroom, he suggested that I might want to see a doctor.
David’s writing style feels like having a conversation with a friend-of-a-friend-of-my-parents (no one in particular, I promise), where the story goes in circles and lasts a little too long after the punch line, where you just want to set down his glass of wine, and pat his back. But at the same time, his goofy, earnest, sarcastic personality, and his ability to chuckle (for no good reason I imagine his laugh sounding like a “hardy har har”) at himself and everyone around him, makes the book, and David, endearing.
His strengths lie in his facts, observations and recipes, and in this book at least 30% of them involve chocolate, in true David style. I can always trust a David-recipe, and I’ve already proudly served the Breton Buckwheat Cake with Fleur de Sel to my friends. I wish I had my ice cream maker in Paris, and a freezer big enough to store it, so I could try out his Espresso-Caramel ice cream. Instead I’ll just dream of living chez David, which sounds like an ice cream oasis:
Is the bedroom off limits? Pas du tout! Because these days, there’s not as much activity going on in there as I’d hoped, so I’ve turned it into a full-on glacière…I had three machines that I was rotating batches through, and each made a terrible racket. So into the bedroom they all went, which was such a great solution that that’s where they now all stay. The only difficulty is explaining to my cleaners why there’s toffee stuck to my sheets. When I tell them I’m rippling ice cream, I get quite a few funny looks. Although the French have a reputation for bedroom antics, I think I have them beat.