July 24-August 4
A Memoir of Paris, Love, and Recipes
(a Paris memoir)
Release date: May 6, 2016
One of the most fascinating memoirs I have read for a while! Plus, it’s about France, Paris, and kale. All good reasons to love Bonjour Kale.
Kristen grew up in the US, raised by a mother who insisted on healthy living and eating. So much so that kale basically became part of Kristen’s identity. So you can imagine her shock and frustration when, leaving her beloved New York for family reasons, she landed in Paris in 2011, but could not find kale anywhere!
Not even David Lebovitz nor Clotilde Dussolier at Chocolate & Zucchini could spot it! NB: they both have amazing book recipes related to France!
Kristen’s memoir shows how she ended up researching all about kale, and making it her mission to (re)introduce it in France, and (re)baptize it. Indeed, it used to be a popular vegetable during the war. But nowadays, very few French people even agreed on its name!
All this in the middle of her near total helplessness with her little to no knowledge of the language, and her discovery of REAL France.
And for me, this is a major bonus of the book. I have read too many rosy presentations of France. This one is not the Paris the “postcard version” for Paris. France can be messy and most annoying as soon as you get in touch with basic everyday life issues. Searching for an apartment in Paris can definitely be a nightmare (in chapter 9). And you need a good dose of patience if you plan on returning an item you bought (see her visit at BHV department store in chapter 14).
The beginning of Chapter 34 page 280 is a good example:
Actually, I suddenly realized her discovery of the real meaning of the French expression “oh là là!!!” (page 82), is a prefect illustration of the disconnect between the usual American view of Paris and what France can be in reality. In the US, this exclamation helps to describe something sexy. NOT AT ALL in French! Rather, we use it (I used to hear it ALL THE TIME in my little village!), to express exasperation and annoyance.
Packed train? Oh là là. Crying baby? Oh là là. Someone stole your taxi? Double oh là là là là là là.
I really admired Kristen persistence, courage, and energy, since her first blog post on April 27, 2012. True, she had a loving husband and made helpful friends, (for instance Elaine Sciolino. See with her article in the New York Times in 2013. See my review of one of her books) but she also had to face major obstacles, and stupid and mean reactions. Even today, I am shocked at the meanness of some reviews on Goodreads, in regards to this so very honest memoir.
After the brainstorming, she had to find farmers ready to grow kale, restaurants ready to use it, and start spreading the desire to eat it! Not a mean task when you know it often takes a while for the French to launch into something new and unusual… and when snails do not need to be persuaded how good kale is!!
It was also very beautiful to see Kristen becoming more and more at ease and making France progressively her own.
My only real problem with the book was the recipes at the end of each chapter (hers and some shared by friends she met on the road), which made me super hungry: soups, chips, smoothies, etc, even kale bloody Mary. They all sound so delicious! Well, I wanted to interrupt my reading and go and prepare something! Plus, I have the advantage to grow kale in my own garden, so a few steps, and I have it all fresh!
And though Kristen’s French improved tremendously since her arrival in Paris, to the point of being able to talk about The Kale Project in French, there are still some mistakes in the book. I only mention here the ones that most surprised me.
Actually, the real culprit here is the editor: when will professional publishing houses finally take time to ask a real French native to double check the use and spelling of French expressions in their books before hitting publish? Of course, this applies to any other foreign language. This is so un-professional!
Page 132: “subjunctive verb tense”. No, the subjunctive is not a tense (these are basically past, present, and future), but a mode, for instance often opposed here to the indicative mode.
Page 139: “Joyeux Fêtes et Bonne Noël”. Ouch, it’s all the opposite, fête is feminine and Noël masculine, so it should read: Joyeuses Fêtes et Bon Noël.
Also, the author expresses her puzzlement on page 86 about the way we say 80 in French: “quatre-vingt“. Quatre means 4, and vingt means 20. She (or her French teacher didn’t think of the connection) must have forgotten the beginning of the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln starts by these words: “Four score and seven years ago“. We no longer use the word score in daily life, but it didmean 20. So Lincoln didn’t say eighty-seven, but like the French: quatre-vingt + sept (seven).
Besides, I was shocked with the scene of ashes spread at Versailles. This is actually highly regulated in France (well, like everything else), and you can NOT by law spread your dear ones’ ashes wherever you want. Certainly not in public parks like Versailles, even in its water!
But these are only minor points. I still attribute 5 Eiffel Towers to this amazing memoir, and am looking forward to following Kristen’s projects and books.
VERDICT: Fascinating and very honest memoir of a New York expat in Paris, about her courageous mission and dedication to kale, despite obstacles found in a new culture and a difficult language.
A memoir of love, life, and recipes from the woman who brought kale to the City of Light.
The story of how one expat woman left her beloved behind when she moved to France-her beloved kale, that is. Unable to find le chou kale anywhere upon moving to the City of Light with her new husband, and despite not really speaking French, Kristen Beddard launched a crusade to single-handedly bring kale to the country of croissants and cheese. Infused with Kristen’s recipes and some from French chefs, big and small (including Michelin star chef Alain Passard) Bonjour Kale is more than just a leafy-green. It is a humorous, heartfelt memoir of how Kristen finds herself in a new home and how she, kale, and France collide.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
is the American author of
Bonjour Kale: A Memoir of Paris, Love and Recipes
and a contributing author to We Love Kale.
She is the founder of The Kale Project,
a blog and successful initiative
that reintroduced kale to France
and was featured in The New York Times,
Conde Nast Traveler, Self Magazine and more.
She has a certificate in Culinary Nutrition
from the Natural Gourmet Institute
and is currently working on a new book Roots, Shoots and Stalks
about food waste and cooking with the whole vegetable.
She resides in New York City with her husband and daughter.
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INTERVIEW AND EXCERPT
In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.