Fall in love with Samantha Vérant’s SEVEN LETTERS FROM PARIS
Preface from the book:
Tonight I’m cooking from the heart, choosing self-belief over fear.
Although I’ve always been a culinary adventuress, experimenting with recipes ripped from the pages ofBon Appétit and Gourmet since the age of twelve, Jean-Luc and I usually prepare this particular meal together—him manning the stove, me the eager sous-chef, slicing and dicing the parsley, shallots, and garlic. Now, thanks to his gentle coaching, I’m a little more confident when it comes to the art of preparing flammable French cuisine. And I can’t let a little heat scare me out of my own kitchen.
The time has finally come to conquer my anxiety of flambéing—on my own.
On the first strike, the match hisses to life, trailing a wisp of smoke. I take a step back, reach out my arm, and touch the lit tip into the Pastis with a steady hand. Flames flare up and the aroma of the anise-flavored liqueur permeates the kitchen. The blaze settles into a simmer, and I let out the breath I’ve been holding in. My technique is still not flawless though; to the cat’s delight, one plump shrimp tumbles onto the floor. Bella lifts her haunches and pounces on her prey. I may not have the pan flip down, but I have one very happy, pint-sized panther.
After setting the timer, I twist the knob on the burner to low, which will allow the flavors of the Pastis to infuse the shrimp just a bit more. Jean-Luc has already set the table outside, and I step out into the garden to join him. “Wine?” he asks.
I nod and take my seat within earshot of the kitchen, noting my husband’s handsome profile, his manicured sideburns, and his chiseled jaw with the five o’clock shadow as he uncorks the bottle of Cabernet d’Anjou.
I am just as attracted to him as I’d been when we first met over twenty years ago.
Right as we’re about to clink glasses, the timer in the kitchen buzzes. Before I can move a muscle, Jean-Luc says, “Stay. Stay.” He flies out of his chair and into the house. A few seconds later, he rushes back to the deck and places a glossy black paper bag on my dinner plate. I can make out the name of a jeweler: 18k, Montres et Bijoux.
I point, my mouth dropping open. “But you weren’t supposed to get me anything—”
“I wanted to.” He shrugs and blows air between his lips like only a Frenchman can do without looking silly.
“But the shrimp—”
“Can wait a minute. I turned the burner off.” He motions to the bag. “Ouvre-le.”
He doesn’t need to translate his words into English. With a shake of my head, I reach through layers of hot pink tissue paper to discover a bracelet resting in a satin-lined box. The clasp is delicate, but Jean-Luc manages to hitch it in seconds. The strand twists on my wrist and a small amethyst heart rests on my pulse, its facets glittering in the candlelight. Something about the way the light flickers on the jewel, almost beating, brings on a moment of complete clarity. I look to the starlit sky before meeting Jean-Luc’s gaze, trying to find my breath. I can only whisper, “Thank you.”
Jean-Luc’s hands clasp onto mine. “Sam, you never, ever have to thank me.”
Oh, but I do.
Three years ago, when I left a loveless marriage, filed for bankruptcy, became a dog walker, and moved back in with my parents in Southern California, I thought things couldn’t get any worse. But then, in a moment of longing and memory, I used the Internet to track down Jean-Luc and rekindle an unfinished romance from decades before. Tonight is our second wedding anniversary.
This is the story of how I rebooted my life and restarted my heart.
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