We've Always Had Paris... and Provence: A Scrapbook of Our Life in France


For more than a quarter century, Patricia Wells, who has long been recognized as the leading American authority on French food, and her husband, Walter, have lived the life in France that many of us have often fantasized about. In this delightful memoir they share in two voices their experiences—the good, the bad, and the funny—offering a charming and evocative account of their beloved home and some of the wonderful people they have met along the way.

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We've Always Had Paris...and Provence

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For more than a quarter century, Patricia Wells, who has long been recognized as the leading American authority on French food, and her husband, Walter, have lived the life in France that many of us have often fantasized about. In this delightful memoir they share in two voices their experiences—the good, the bad, and the funny—offering a charming and evocative account of their beloved home and some of the wonderful people they have met along the way.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Americans Patricia and Walter Wells have achieved what for most other expatriates could only be a dream: They have been accepted as locals by the French. Cookbook author Patricia is the only American and, indeed, the only women to serve as a restaurant critic for a major French publication (L'Express). Husband Walter, the longtime executive editor at the International Herald Tribune, is one of the few non-French citizens to be awarded the Legion of Honor. In this charming joint memoir, they reminisce about their three decades in Paris and Provence, offering graceful tributes to their adopted country's culture, customs, and, of course, cuisines.
St. Petersburg Times
“Guaranteed to turn any foodie or Francophile vert with envy.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Entertaining....The passionate rapport and mutual respect between the spouses shines through every chapter...intimate and revealing.”
Publishers Weekly

With charm and insightful anecdotes about the Parisian and Provençal food-driven life, cookbook author Wells and her husband, Walter, artfully recreate their quarter-century-long courtship with flavorful France. Their two distinct voices-complemented by black-and-white photos and more than 30 simple recipes for couscous salad, salmon tartare, and scrambled eggs with truffles-detail the couple's forays into "going native." As they endeavor to adapt to the fashions and lifestyle of the French capital, Patricia takes on the task of researching a city's worth of tastes, textures and smells, visiting tea salons, pastry shops, boulangeriesand chocolate makers for her Food Lover's Guide to Paris, while Walter settles into a new position as editor at the International Herald Tribune. Their Parisian interlude soon turns into a permanent French sojourn when they are seduced by the parasol pines and terraced vineyard belonging to an 18th-century farmhouse called Chanteduc. With their purchase of this northern Provençal abode, the remains of urban life fall to the wayside. This thoroughly enjoyable narrative describes the lavish, flavorful rewards of a life spent abroad. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

The Wellses have lived an enviable life in France for over 30 years. Patricia is one of the most widely recognized American writers on French food, a former food critic for the International Herald Tribune, and the author of ten books, including the classic Bistro Cooking. Her husband spent 25 years at the International Herald Tribune, working his way up to executive editor. Their latest effort is a joint affair, offering alternating reminiscences about their decision to move to France and chronicling the adventures life has thrown at them since. Although food features heavily through the book, and most sections are capped with a recipe-there are over 30 scattered throughout, including Almond Macaroon and Fresh Berry Cake and Fish Cheeks with Polenta and Parmesan Crust-the book is about their lives, with food-not food, with a little life thrown in. Photographs from their private collection enhance the personal nature of the memoir. An optional purchase for most libraries. (Index not seen.) [See Prepub Alert, LJ3/1/08.]
—Rosemarie Lewis

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060898588
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/28/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Wells

Patricia Wells is a journalist, author, and teacher who runs the popular cooking school At Home with Patricia Wells in Paris and Provence. She has won four James Beard Awards and the French government has honored her as a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, recognizing her contribution to French culture. A former New York Times reporter, she is the only foreigner and the only woman to serve as restaurant critic for a major French publication, L'Express. She served as the global restaurant critic for the International Herald Tribune for more than twenty-five years. She lives in Paris and Provence with her husband, Walter Wells.

Patricia Wells and Walter Wells have lived in Paris for nearly thirty years. Patricia runs a popular cooking school in Paris and Provence, and is the author of ten previous books. From 1980 to 2007 she was restaurant critic for the International Herald Tribune. Walter retired as executive editor of the International Herald Tribune in 2005, having previously worked as editor and managing editor since 1980. He is one of the few non-French citizens to be awarded the French Legion of Honor.

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Read an Excerpt

We've Always Had Paris...and Provence A Scrapbook of Our Life in France
By Patricia Wells
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2008 Patricia Wells
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780060898618

Chapter One

Ah, Paris!


Like any fantasy, it was supposed to be ephemeral. It was also supposed to be transcendent. But here I was, stuck in airport traffic and the only question in my head on that dismal January morning was "What have I gotten Patricia and me into?" The taxi was nudging its way into the bumper-locked queue of cars snaking toward Paris, snuffed or so it seemed by the smoky pea soup that often passes as wintertime air, and my abs and glutes knotted in involuntary acknowledgment that our gamble of moving to Paris could be a really bad bet.

A colleague who had also recently left the Times had spent months making his decision, with neat lists of pros and cons and extensive conversations with various newsroom counselors. Far less methodical than he—also younger, with no children and more blitheness of spirit—I had done none of that. My lists were all in my head and consisted mostly of people in New York I would miss and things in Paris I wouldn't have to miss anymore. My colleague was looking for a career opportunity and my interest was mostly in a little adventure—a couple of years at the International Herald Tribune. My friend ended up staying away from the Times for about two years, then he went back. I never did.

Slumped in a battered taxi that wasbarely moving and blind in the fog, I had just begun learning Paris's best kept secret: its gray, damp weather. January's short, sunless days are especially depressing. All Frenchmen who can afford it (and they save up so they can) seek a sunny antidote to winter's depths either on an Alpine ski slope or on some Club Med beach. Not me. I was headed in the other direction, swept along by what I counted on being adventure and what I now feared might just be naïveté.

Ironically, the fog reinforced one bit of clarity. I knew already that living in Paris would not be like visiting Paris, but I hadn't appreciated what that really meant. My previous trips to France had lasted days or weeks and had been marked by an epiphany at some museum or cathedral and a lot of feel-good time at sidewalk cafés or strolls in the long summer twilight. Vacation syndrome is dangerously seductive. You actually believe that this magical place you have come to allows you to be the contented, stress-free person you really are. There's a lot of vacation syndrome in Paris.

And now fog or not, traffic jam or not, I was about to become a Parisian. And in two weeks, when Patricia had closed up the New York apartment, she would join me. The magic of that idea was powerful. Paris was the ultimate destination in my map of the universe. Even more than New York, Paris offered glamour and excitement as a place to be. And it was exotic. After eight years in New York—and still considering it my true home—I wanted an overseas adventure.

Exoticism aside, the immediate requirement, shelter, had been temporarily solved by Lydie and Wayne Marshall, New York friends who were generously lending us their apartment for several weeks in exchange for fitting some of their furniture into the small shipping container that Patricia had stayed behind to fill with clothes and other basic needs. We left everything else behind to be there when we returned. The Marshalls' little apartment, on the Rue des Entrepreneurs in the 15th arrondissement, provided a place to sleep plus the experience of a quiet working-class neighborhood. When I had described the neighborhood to a colleague at the Times, I had called it "not very interesting." "There is no such thing as an uninteresting quartier in Paris," he corrected me. Maybe not, but it did seem remote from Paris's chic, mythic center.

And so did my next stop, the Herald Tribune offices. After the taxi finally crawled to the 15th and I dropped off my bags, I got onto the Métro and headed for Neuilly. The paper had moved several years earlier from Rue de Berry off the Champs-Elysées. Its new offices, in a plush suburb on the western edge of Paris, are only four Métro stops beyond the Arc de Triomphe, so it wasn't geography that made it feel remote.

I had visited the Trib for the first time four months earlier and had left the job interview feeling very dubious about giving up my staff job at the New York Times for this. Patricia and I were also in love with the idea of being New Yorkers. When I was growing up in the Carolina Piedmont, television had just begun the great cultural leveling that over time washed away a lot of America's regionalism. The excitement and sophistication flowing down the coaxial cable all emanated from New York. I had wanted to be at the wellspring for a long time before I got there.

Another Southerner, Willie Morris, wrote a book in those years called North Toward Home, and the title described a path that had beaconed to me since third grade. Miss Frances Love, our teacher at the little school in McConnells, South Carolina, talked to her unwashed, barefoot charges about her trips to Manhattan. One day she got so excited as she talked of that place far, far from our Faulknerian hamlet that she turned to her blackboard and sketched the three most noteworthy skyscrapers of our day. Her chalk drawings did little credit to the Old World angles of the Flatiron Building, or the elegant symmetry of the Empire State Building, or the Chrysler Building's Art Deco frou-frou. But the crude chalkboard images stuck in at least one young mind eager for impressions from the outside, and I recalled my early teacher's drawings when I moved to New York and began directly sharing her enthusiasm for the city.


Excerpted from We've Always Had Paris...and Provence by Patricia Wells Copyright © 2008 by Patricia Wells. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

List of Recipes

Preface: Go for It! 1

Part I Setting Out to Live a Fantasy

1 Ah, Paris! 15

2 Learning More Than French 23

3 Seeing Things 35

4 Rules, Rules, and More Rules 39

5 Reality Strikes 49

6 Making Yourself Up 57

7 Put Yourself on Vacation 65

8 LaVie en Rose 77

Part II Going Native

9 Almost Parisian ("Have You Ever Thought of Wearing Makeup?") 87

10 Dangerous De-Liaisons 95

11 A Small Inn Near Avignon 101

12 Nouvelle Cuisine, Critique Nouvelle 109

13 You Paid to Learn to Drive Like That? 121

14 Two for the Road 129

15 The L'Express Years 135

16 Mr. Patricia Wells 147

17 Weighty Matters 157

Part III Our Private Universe

18 A Farmhouse in Provence 169

19 Making a House a Home 181

20 Chantier-Duc 191

21 Grow, Garden, Grow 201

22 All About Yves 215

23 Vineyard Tales 225

Part IV World Enough

24 Right Bank, Left Bank 237

25 Fame but Not Fortune 251

26 Clients Fideles 261

27 Life Lessons from Julia and Joel 269

28 Another Kind of Interlude 283

29 Mrs. Walter Wells 289

30 It's Not About the Marathon 295

31 You and Me, Babe 307

Captions for Endpapers 315

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 18, 2011

    A Wonderful Slice of Life Book

    The reviewer who chastises Patricia Wells for not being Julia Child... Well, I'm not Eleanor Roosevelt either -- which is just as irrelevant. Who cares? Patricia Wells is writing about her own life and is not trying to be anyone else. And she IS quite well known. Patricia Wells' story will certainly be interesting to those who are familiar with her critical work, those who are interested in reading about the life of a writer or those who just enjoy food, food writing and reading about France. It is a well written and enjoyable book with a considerable amount of small detail and an intimate look into the world and the time it describes. It's also a portrait of a relationship and a career. This is a wonderful book and I can't believe anyone would take issue with it. I have recommended it to friends and even gave it as a gift. When I was only halfway through it, I even paid to have it mailed to me when I left it at a hotel. You will be delighted with this book!

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  • Posted August 20, 2009

    Not Enough

    We've Always had Paris...... and Provence
    Patricia and Walter Wells
    Harper Perennial
    ISBN: 978-0-06-089858-8
    Reviewed By: Emily Decobert

    How many of us have dreamed of chucking it all and moving to an exotic local? Most of us have and I must admit, my dream was Paris. Having gone there when I was twenty, I began a love affair with this wonderful city that continues to this day. So, of course, when I heard about We've Always had Paris, I had to review it.
    Patricia and Walter Wells understand the yearning of us Parisophiles. They often talked about the chance of moving to Paris to live. Both were writers for the Times and they dreamed of the day the call would come in offering a job at the Paris branch of the Times, the International Herald Tribune. One day, the dream became reality and they packed up and moved.
    Now they had to face the reality of living where they didn't speak the language and were strangers in a world so different it was almost alien. Add to that Walter's 24 hour a day job and Patricia's freelance and cookbook career and they were almost overwhelmed. However, they find their way in the strange new world of both Paris and Provence and the book is filled with their memories, experiences, and meals.
    I began this book with high hopes and found myself slightly disappointed. The tale is very well written and chocked full of tales and recipes, but it lacks lustre. The descriptions of Paris failed to evoke the wonderful sense of the city itself and felt as flat as the pages of the book. When I read a book about a foreign country, I want to get lost in the place and the people and I was sad when these book almost but didn't quite succeed.
    The part about Provence also didn't evoke the sense of place and time. Having never been there, I had hoped for a tale filled with the magic of that unique part of the country. I was looking forward to seeing and experiencing in my mind a trip to this area and I didn't find it. The story was well told and filled with those unique experiences of French country living, but I failed to make that vital connection with both the place and the characters.
    There can be no doubt that these two writers are very talented at writing factual information and they created technically sound book, but without the magic of the place shining through the book falters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2008

    Lovely account.

    I disagree with the other review. My Life in France is one of my favorite books, and the similarities only lie in the setting and theme of food. It is a different story from a different time. I appreciate the authors' honesty of the hardships of living abroad and how they adapted together. While Patricia Wells is not as well known as Julia Child in the mainstream, in the food world she is very well respected. I find Patricia and Walter's story to be a delightful, interesting read and recommend it to others that enjoy food and travel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2008


    Patricia Wells needs to get creative. This book directly mirrors Julia Child's bestselling memoir 'My Life In France' from the title right down to the formatting of the black and white photographs. While Patricia Wells may be known to the more food obsessed, she is no household name. Shes no Julia Child. Do yourself a favor. Skip this and pick up 'My Life in France' for an exciting, funny, and moving romp through the life of the woman who changed how we feel about food.

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    Posted November 16, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted December 17, 2009

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    Posted December 27, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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