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Return to Paris
By Colette Rossant

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Return to Paris: A Memoir with Recipes
By Colette Rossant
ISIS Large Print, (2004)
ISBN: 0-7531-9882-7
Genre: Autobiography

Other Editions: Standard Print - Hardcover | Standard Print - Paperback

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - April 13, 2004

In Apricots on the Nile, Colette Rossant recounted the events surrounding her childhood, which was spent primarily in Egypt. Rossant was born in France and moved to Egypt in 1937. Rossant was five at the time of the move. She returned to Paris, with her mother, in 1947. Return to Paris: A Memoir with Recipes, is her sequel to Apricots on the Nile, and it picks up where the first book technically ended - with her leaving Egypt to return to France.

In Return to Paris, Rossant chronicles her reintegration into the life of her French family's life and becoming reacquainted with her brother who she had not seen in eight years. From the onset, Rossant's life had been unsettled. Her indifferent mother repeatedly abandoned her to the care of her various grandparents. The one constant in her life, and a fact that is highlighted in both books, is her love of food - in regard to both the preparation and consumption. Return to Paris is therefore a culinary diary of her life - her memories of preparing various dishes with servants and family members and her memories of eating - both at home and at various restaurants.

In this volume she recounts her high school (Lycee) days, and her studies at the Pasteur Institute, which were cut short when she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She describes her feelings growing up, her thoughts about 'boys' and how she met her future husband. She also goes on to describe her marriage, honeymoon, and the first few years of her life as a bride, living first in Germany, then Italy, and finally in America.

It is clear from this memoir that Rossant was a pampered and well-to-do young woman, and despite the emotional hardships fostered upon her by her mother's indifference, she has had a relatively agreeable, and extremely interesting life. Her passion for food is paramount in her narrative, and this memoir is liberally seasoned with recipes. The most interesting recipe in this book, and a surprising tasty one, is one for Onion Jam. In all there are around thirty recipes in this book, ranging from simple dishes such as Meat Loaf, to more complex delicacies such as Alice's Raspberry Tart.

Return to Paris is an intriguing book, that provides a brief glimpse into day to day life in post war Europe, from the vantage point of a privileged youth. The recipes are intriguing, as are some of Rossant remembrances, such as the time she and her new husband spent the night in a brothel thinking that it was just your normal run-of-the-mill hotel with mirrors on the ceiling. The only drawback to this book is that Rossant jumps around in time, a lot, and the transitions from past to present can be confusing at times, but not overly so. As with Apricots on the Nile, the main strength of the book is the recipes and Rossant's descriptions of the role that food played, both socially and culturally, in her life and the life of those around her.

Return to Paris can be purchased directly from Ulverscroft, the parent company of ISIS Large Print.

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