1. THE EPIGRAPH. The epigraph quotes Julia Child: “France was my spiritual homeland: it had become a part of me and I a part of it…” What kind of mood does this epigraph establish? Is there a place that is your “spiritual homeland?”
2. COOKBOOKS. Mah describes her copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking as “butter-spattered” (p. 3). What is your relationship to cooking and cookbooks? Do you cook? Do you have a favorite cookbook, and if so, what condition is it in?
3. CULTURE AND CUISINE. Mastering the Art of French Eating is a story told in different regions. What is the relationship between place and food in this book? In your own life?
4. LANGUAGE. The author quickly realizes there is more to fluency than language. What other knowledge and customs are important to creating a people or country?
5. EXPECTATION VERSUS REALITY. Ann’s love for France started when she was young. Did the reality of living there meet her expectations? What was different? What elements most resembled her fantasy?
6. HOME. Ann describes herself as being lonely—and even homesick—while at home. “Our home was nowhere—and everywhere—to me.” (p. 176). As she and Calvin balance work and life, moving frequently and all the adjustments that comes with, what did you see as their biggest challenges? Do you think the tradeoffs were worth it?
7. PHILOSOPHY FOR LIFE. Mah says she noticed one of France’s most beloved dishes had come from sustenance foods: ”out of hardship had come innovation, and out of innovation had come enduring bounty.” (p. 71) How does her memoir reflect this paradox?
8. EATING TOGETHER. Ann is reminded on her trip to Lyon that “the act of eating can create a community.” (p. 94) What comes to mind as you consider her triumvirate of food, rest, and camaraderie? How does this trio play out in your life?
9. RECIPES. Did this book made you want to cook? Have you made any of the recipes from this or from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking? Are there any you want to try?