20 May 2008

Patricia and Walter Wells: They've Always had Paris...and a Good Deal More


It might have been Bill Ragsdale who told me about Patricia Wells all those years ago.

Wilmot Ragsdale - Rags, as he was affectionately known - was a rather legendary journalism professor at UW-Madison. I never took one of his classes, but I had a drink with him once at a friend's celebration. S., my friend, had finished defending her master's thesis and a rather large group of us celebrated over wine and spaghetti at an Italian restaurant near the sprawling campus.

In the early 80s, Jane Brody, a prominent journalism-school alumna, was all the buzz, but someone - was it Rags or his friend and colleague Hartley E. Howe, who was one of my professors? - said there was another J-school grad who had just begin to write about food in Paris.

I was envious. I was studying French in those days, after a long hiatus, and I was struggling. I was also struggling financially, trying to hold body and soul together by writing news releases, crunching numbers for one historian and running errands for another.

Learning and writing about food in Paris sounded like a dream to me, but it was reality for Patricia Wells, a fellow Wisconsinite, and her handsome husband Walter, also a journalist.

Imagine how delighted I was to learn a few weeks back, that the couple had written a book together, "We've Always Have Paris...and Provence."

Patricia begins her acknowledgments quoting Bill Ragsdale. "Be bold," he used to say, and he said it to Patricia, too. I, too, have kept those words in mind and they've propelled me forward often.

Walter and Patricia alternate writing passages, and so their story is told in two voices, with two perspectives.

I like these people - and not just because they are or have been fellow journalists. They have high standards and they've worked hard. Their life has not always run smoothly, but it has been good - very good. I've learned a lot about Paris and Provence from them over this chilly Wisconsin weekend, and a good deal about myself and where I want to go in the future. As role models, Patricia and Walter Wells are good ones to have.

Read this book. Try the recipes. (Of course, there are recipes!) If you like food and you like France, it is necessary.


Note: The photo above was taken outside a Paris restaurant on Rue de Monttessuy a year ago. It bears no relationship to Patricia or Walter Wells, except that it was taken near a restaurant recommended by Patricia. The restaurant is Au Bon Accueil. On our first night in the quartier a year ago, a small jazz band seranaded someone at the restaurant. We were charmed.

12 comments:

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I've seen several reviews on this one Mimi and think I'll have to get my hands on it.
Hope all is well.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I've always wanted to take one of her cooking classes at their home in Provence. Everything about it looks perfect.

Christine said...

This isn't the first book you've written about that I went straight out and bought, and I'm sure it won't be the last. Thanks for sharing.
Are you terribly busy these days? I know I am.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Tanna, I read this over a weekend and it was like a visit with the Wellses. My husband has been a fan of Walter's for a long time.

Lydia, I want to take a class from her, too, but they are always filled.

Christine, I hope you enjoy this book. Yes, I have been away from home every night for the past 10 days, out of town, and occupied all weekend. The weekend I read this book was my last free moment. I am looking forward to the three-day weekend ahead, aren't you?

Judy said...

Oh Thank You Thank You for telling me about this book. I am buying this weekend. Or maybe tomorrow!!! I love Patricia and have most of her books and with a long weekend ahead I'll have time to read. Oh to take one of her cooking classes would be devine wouldn't it? I would be on cloud 9!! Thanks again Mimi and have a wonderful long weekend. I am planning on shampooing carpets (well OK not so fun) but then while my carpet is drying I'm going for a nice hike near Boulder with my daughter...and reading Patricia!!

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Judy, you will love this book!

b said...

I read a piece on Patricia and Walter Wells featured in an International Tribune article not too long ago. My sister, knowing how I love all things French, brought the newspaper article back from her trip to Korea. It was such an inspiring read and I could feel their passion for what they do and life in general. It is so nice to read this post and hear your reaction and experience.

And I love the photo featured. The lighting is so lovely.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

B, I was actually thinking of Patricia Wells when I shot those photos. We were on our way to the open market on Rue Cler.

I could not put the book down. It was like spending the weekend with two friends!

Eileen said...

I have to get this book. I love all of Patricia Wells' cookbooks and enjoy reading about their life in France.

Eileen (passions to pastry)
www.livingtastefully.com

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Eileen, this book is much better than most books of this type. It is the best I have read yet! I recommend reading it along with Susan Loomis Hermann's "On Rue Tatin," which is another good one.

And of course "My Life in France," by our beloved Julia.

Loulou said...

Good to read a review of this book. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

I predict you will love it, LouLou!