Interview: Ann Mah
Ann, could you describe yourself in three adjectives?
Enthusiastic, curious, always hungry.
What is your connection to France. What is France to you?
I’ve been lucky enough to live in Paris for four years because of my husband’s work (he’s a diplomat and we move often). My time in France isn’t permanent, but it will always be one of my spiritual homes. I love the sense of continuity here, the connection to land, terroir, food and history.
You are a food and travel writer and novelist. What are your interests outside of cooking and writing?
Eating? Seriously, I also love reading, I’m an aspirational knitter, and am developing a new appreciation for flea markets.
From where comes your passion for food and travel?
As I mentioned, my husband is a diplomat so we move often, all around the world. Part of my passion for food is gratitude for the ability it has given me to discover new places and cultures.
Your work has been published in the New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, the International Herald Tribune, Fodor’s travel guides, Washingtonian magazine, the South China Morning Post and other publications. Last your novel Kitchen Chinese was published and currently you are working on a nonfiction book about French regional cuisine.
For those who are not familiar, could you describe:
– your writing style.
I’m fascinated by food and the ways in which it connects us — strangers, friends, families, foreigners and different generations.
– your novel, Kitchen Chinese.
My first novel is about a young American woman who happens to look Chinese, who moves to Beijing and discovers China — and a little bit about herself — through the cuisine.
What inspires you?
Handwritten recipes, mom-and-pop restaurants, food prepared with love and thought.
And now onto your favorites…
As your husband is a diplomat, you make frequent international moves.
In which is your favorite city to live?
Paris, but with the hustle of New York and the dumplings of Beijing.
What is your favorite French meal?
Anything home cooked. I love old family recipes!
You have lived in Paris since 2008…
– Which is your favorite Parisian arrondissement?
The 6th, where I live now. But my husband spent a few years after college in the 20th and I’ll always have a soft spot for its gritty charm.
– Which is your favorite restaurant or bistro in Paris?
Les Fables de la Fontaine has just the right mix of decadence and charm.
– Which is your favorite bar or cafe in Paris?
Le Mistral in the 20th is a true Aveyronnais café, of the type that’s disappearing all too rapidly. It has a zinc counter and mirrored columns, and a welcome as hearty as a glass of local red wine.
– Which is your favorite library or bookstore in Paris?
The Village Voice, which has such a thoughtful selection of English-language books. Also, La Hune for French novels.
– Where is your favorite place to relax in Paris?
I love the Jardin du Luxembourg for its pristine green stretches and elegant flower beds. I’ve taken many naps there, stretched out on a bench like a hobo.
– Where is your favorite place to celebrate a big event in Paris?
I’d celebrate with a walk across the city from the Right Bank to the Left Bank, on one of those late June evenings when the light stretches to 11pm. Just make sure to stop for plenty of Champagne and/or ice cream.
Thank you Ann Mah for taking time out to do this interview with My French Life™. We’ve enjoyed getting to know you and learning more about your cooking writing and book.
To find out more about Ann Mah, you can visit her website.