French Toast An American in Paris Celebrates the Maddening Mysteries of the French, by Harriet Welty Rochefort  Visit Harriet's website

 French Toast

The following is a short excerpt from the chapter on "The French and their Food" :
When I first came to France over twenty years ago, I decided to introduce the concept of The Sandwich As A Meal to my in-laws. This was pre-MacDonald's, when people like my father-in-law still returned home for lunch, a four-course affair. My mother-in-law, used to the preparation of two ample daily repasts, embraced my idea eagerly. We hence proceeded to prepare sandwiches for lunch and serve one to my father-in-law, normally the soul of tolerance.

 

This anecdote is just one among many in my book French Toast published in January 1999 by St. Martin's Press. All these anecdotes are gleaned from real life experiences as the author has lived in France for more than two decades with a French husband and two half-French, half-American children. She wrote French Toast because she decided it was high time to "tell the tale" of what it's like to LIVE in France with a full-fledged French family as opposed to just passing through as a tourist. This book was both fun and cathartic and from the comments of many American women who, like her, married Frenchmen, most of her remarks are right on track. One American husband of a French woman even told her that she had written "the mirror image of his life"! Fortunately for her, that person happened to be the Los Angeles Times correspondent in Paris who went on to write a glowing review of the book in the LA Times Style section. A quote from that review is on the cover of the book.

French Toast can be found in major bookstores in the USA or can be ordered from amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and borders.com. If you're in Paris, you can also find it at the major English-language bookstores in Paris, W.H. Smith on the rue de Rivoli, or Brentanos on the avenue de l'Opera, for example. It is also available in an audio version ( Blackstone Publishers).

 He gazed at our creation as if it were a strange living creature and upon being informed that you ate The Sandwich with your hands, commented ironically, "Well, why don't we just get down on the floor and throw bones over our shoulders while we're at it?" That, needless to say, was the last time we ever even entertained the idea of fast food in that family. My father-in-law has since died, but tradition holds. In my belle-famille, a sandwich is not a meal.

About French Toast, Diane Johnson, best-selling author of "Le Divorce" wrote : "Though the French may have changed a little since Harriet Welty Rochefort's classic French Toast first came out, and there have been a ton of books since on the subject of French ways and habits, hers remains the gold standard. It will always be right on." (Sept.2009)
 

And, by the way, if you want to find out how to make something other than a sandwich (!), click to find some traditional French recipes, some of which are Philippe's, the "star" of French Toast !

Read about Harriet's book on food, published by St.Martin's Press in March 2001 and read her Paris Diary.

  • French Toast has been published in French by Editions Ramsay in April 2005. Title : "Heureuse comme une américaine en France"  ; it is now out of print.
  • It has been re-published (in English) in paperback by St.Martin's Press in June 2010 (Diane Johnson wrote about it : "French Toast is a classic")

SCOOP! Do the French deserve their reputation : charm, good food, enjoying their life ? In her book, published in Fall 2012, Harriet Welty Rochefort explains how to wine, dine and romance like the French, and much more. Click here to know more and keep posted!

Last minute ...

Meet Harriet Welty Rochefort in October 2013 on her booksigning tour (Chicago, Omaha, Seattle, LA, Knoxville, Memphis, etc..)

More on Harriet's site

 Letters from readers    DID YOU KNOW THAT...? French Toast ranked 14th in sales at Paris bookstore W.H. Smith for 1999-not in the Top Ten but still right up there with Tom Wolfe (#11), Peter Mayle (#10) and Harry Potter (#1)!! To date, French Toast has sold more than 50,000 copies ! French Toast is also published in Chinese !

  From Meredith P., California (another Iowan in France!): I am compelled to write to you after having read your book, French Toast. I, too, am an Iowan who, after marrying a Frenchman, moved to France to live. We resided in a small community outside of Toulouse for two years and recently...returned to the United States to live. My mother gave French Toast to me upon my return to the U.S. and I found it to be a witty, wise, and very comforting book about what it is like to be an American woman living in France, and what it is like to be one half of a French-American couple amount the French!! It sort of "validated" my experience there--not that I ever considered my experiences there "invalid" but, it was indeed wonderful to read your perspectives of the French, which are so incredibly similar to my own!....I nearly cracked a rib laughing myself silly when I read your description (among many other hilarious passages) of the French woman -- was she your sister-in-law?--who WILLINGLY and EFFORTLESSLY prepares a 10-course meal in a silk blouse, sans taches!! I have witnessed that same phenomenon several times and it never ceased to amaze, and yes, annoy me! (I also couldn't get over their ironing of underwear, sheets, and towels with nary a complaint!)...I thank you again for having written French Toast. It came to me when I really needed it, and your humor and insight touched me.

From Mark S. Quel honneur! I just finished reading "French Toast," and I located your e-mail address as quickly as I could to thank you for writing such a delightful book! J'éudie le français depuis trois ans, and since then, France, its language, and its culture have become for me a veritable passion ... I could truly empathize with the feelings you expressed in your book: being "etiquettely" sound, fearing being foiled by marchands, yearning for a convincing accent, etc. And, in my going on three years of studies, I've not yet read such a comprehensive or amusing overview of the culture. Bravo! Thank you for your book, and thank you for taking the time to read this! Keep up the good work. :)

For many others letters, click here !

 

Harriet tells the inside story of French Toast ... from Iowa to Paris

In 1971, I decided to go to France "one more time" before settling down to a "normal" life in the USA. I was living in California at the time and rather unconventionally decided to hop on a BOAT to Mexico (I hate flying) where I spent a few months learning Spanish in Cuernavaca. I then headed toward Vera Cruz where I got on a freighter to Cadiz, Spain. Three weeks on the ocean watching planes fly overhead made me wonder about my phobia... but fortunately we spied land at last! After landing in Cadiz, Spain, I hopped over to Morocco, then made my way up through Spain (toujours not in a plane), and at last to Paris! It was wonderful but I really thought that there was too much traffic and noise and was heading for Argentina when I met Philippe. The rest is history - and if you want to find out what marrying a Frenchman and living with him in his country for the rest of your days means - read my book French Toast

More about the author ? click here.

.This is a famous painting by Géricault called "Le Radeau de la Méduse". It is in the Louvre and well worth the visit.

 Are the French really so different ? Yes!!    French Toast Chapter Headings

Harriet reports : Intercultural differences are the subject of my book, French Toast, which tells the tale of what happens when an American from Iowa, yes, IOWA (not Ohio or Idaho, if you see what I mean), goes to France on her own steam, marries a Frenchman, and ends up spending the rest of her life far away from home. In spite of the glamour, it's not always easier to adapt to a foreign culture - especially when you're the one doing all the adapting. I love France, I love French cooking, French history, French museums and monuments. My children were born in French hospitals and attended French schools from la maternelle (pre-school) on to and through university. If it weren't for my American accent, I might almost have gone native. In spite of all this, cultural differences continued to loom and I was fascinated to see that the differences became greater, not smaller, as the years rolled by. (For some of these differences, read our page Facts & Figures on France). 

In French Toast I tell about these cultural differences which range from French attitudes towards sex, money, and even and especially, politeness. It's admittedly a very American viewpoint but the book has its resident Frenchman, my husband Philippe, right on hand to comment and counter my remarks in an interview at the end of each chapter. I call this the only book about the French in which a French person gets the "droit de réponse" (right to answer) in real time.

 
  • Getting Here : From Shenandoah, Iowa, to Paris, France
  • The French and Their Food : Why, after a valiant effort to make five-course meals twice a day for two decades, I decided to throw the towel
  • The Frenchwoman : Why no self-respecting Frenchwoman would be caught dead in a suit and tennis shoes
  • The French and Sex, Love and Marriage : Why it is easier to write about the French and sex than about the French and money
  • The French and Money : An attempt to unravel the complex and unfathomable relationship of the French to their finances
  • The Parisians : How an Iowan fends for herself among the inhabitants of the City of Light
  • Politesse : The French, polite ? What to do and not to do in polite society
  • School Daze : A reflection upon the French educational system. In other words, why do all these kids look like anemic hunchbacks ?
  • Why I'll Never Be French (But I Really Am!) : Why, never having been able to form a proper French r or u, I conclude that I'll always remain an "inside outsider"
 Translations and adaptations

 "French Toast" published in Chinese !

This book was published in Chinese by the Walnut Tree Publishing Co.

I did not have to do the proof-reading and I have no idea of what the critics (if any) say about it, but it was great to see it ! It's very interesting to write a book which you cannot read... In any case, all Chinese readers and readers of Chinese are cordially invited to take a peek. Once they do, they can let me know how it reads in translation....

 See my Chinese page

In addition to French Toast, Harriet Welty Rochefort wrote a book on the French and their food : see the page on "French Fried : The Culinary Capers of an American in Paris".

   

 "French Toast" adapted in French !

In Spring 2005, an adaptation of French Toast was published in French by Ramsay (Paris).

Livre épuisé mais il reste quelques exemplaires en vente 16 Euros + port 2 Euros (commander)
More on Harriet's site

 
To related pages : Harriet's Paris Diary, intercultural differences, etc...

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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