Lisa Baker Morgan, PARIS, PART TIME

Lisa Baker Morgan, PARIS, PART TIME

Zibby Owens: Hey, everyone. I am so excited. I’m trying something new this week. I’m doing a July Book Blast. I am releasing a ton of episodes for ten days in July for a couple reasons. One, a lot of these are books that came out during the quarantine and talk about the quarantine and are very timely. I don’t want them sitting around for too long. These authors deserve to have their books out there. I had a little bit of a backlog. I want to get them out so you can enjoy them. The second reason is because a lot of these are great books to read in the summer. I didn’t want to start releasing these episodes in September when there’s less time to read. I don’t know, maybe there’ll be more time to read if school actually starts. Anyway, this is your July Book Blast. Today is the first day of the book blast. I am calling this Memoir Monday. Today, you’re going to hear from some of my favorite recent memoirists about their books. I really hope you enjoy every one of them.

I recorded my interview with Lisa Baker Morgan originally as an Instagram Live when I was doing my Instagram Live quarantine show. She was one of the last episodes that I did. She is the author of a memoir called Paris, Part Time. If you’re feeling a craving for jetting off to Paris and escaping, this book is your next-best option since that’s not in the cards in reality. Lisa Baker Morgan graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in English literature. She obtained her Juris doctorate from Southwestern Law School and her culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. Like that accent? Morgan is the coauthor of Homegrown Herb Garden and the author of Simple Pleasures: Fifty-two Weeks of Turning Ordinary Ingredients into Extraordinary Moments. For many years, Morgan authored a travel and food blog,, and has written numerous guest articles for food websites and blogs. She was featured in The Mothers of Reinvention as a mother who faced change in a positive way. In addition to her writing and cooking endeavors, Chef Morgan has taken on humanitarian and philanthropic causes in the United States and internationally, including advocacy on behalf of adults and children who have endured childhood sexual assault and trauma. She currently — well, maybe not currently. Typically, she divides her time between Paris and Los Angeles. I hope you enjoy our conversation. I know I did.

Hi. How are you?

Lisa Baker Morgan: Good morning. How are you?

Zibby: Good. It’s so nice to talk to you.

Lisa: Nice to talk to you. Happy belated Memorial Day. Although, every day seems to feel like Monday, right?

Zibby: It’s true. Although, I have to say, I felt like it was a day off yesterday in a way that I wasn’t expecting it to feel. Did you feel like that, or not?

Lisa: Yeah, I agree. I’m in LA right now. We were just hanging out by the pool and barbequing all day. The girls took the day off from studying. They have finals this week. The older one’s graduating. It was a day of relaxation.

Zibby: In my head, your girls are still young because I just read the book. I’m picturing them as so little.

Lisa: They were very little when the book was written. The older one is eighteen. My younger one is sixteen.

Zibby: That’s awesome. I feel like the only different between a day off and not is just the flood of emails. When the emails slow down, that’s a nice day.

Lisa: There’s some days, I’m like, you know what? It’s email bankruptcy. I just can’t get to all of them today. I call it a day off. I need it.

Zibby: But then it’s twice as bad the next day. Anyway, whatever. This is my own — . You have become this American chef, but you say you have a French soul. You wrote this book called Paris, Part Time. I have to say, that first section where you were sick in the hospital was so gripping. I felt like time stood still. I was just like, what is going on? What is happening? How is she going to do this? What about her boyfriend? It was so good. It makes you want to see everything else that happens with your life. Now I feel like I’m totally invested in what’s going on with you.

Lisa: Thank you. I’m pleased you enjoyed it. It’s interesting, though, because the book as it is now is not how it was originally intended. It was intended, actually, just to be a travelogue and a foodoir, basically, of my journeys in France and buying the place in France. Then when I did that, it kind of begged the question of, are you a lunatic? Why are you buying this place in France when you’re a mother, and you’re a divorced mother, and you can’t live there full time? That’s when the backstory came out, the past that you’re referring to. It was the hardest part to write, for sure. I hesitated to add that memoir element to it simply because I’m the type of person who’s probably a better interviewer than interviewee. I’m more comfortable cooking for somebody with them served, so there you go. I thought about it after some time. Toni Morrison’s words, I’m paraphrasing, but she said if there’s a book that you want to read and it hasn’t been written, you need to be the one to write about it.

I love reading books about people’s journeys, about their triumph over tragedy, and their experiences and their lives. I love biographies and memoirs. At that time, I hadn’t read any that were about mothers, and certainly not about single mothers trying to create their dreams and make a life for themselves and their children within the parameters of a child-share schedule. It’s a very different thing. Divorce does change the scheme of things. That’s why it became important for me to go ahead and include those things. I thought, you know what, there’s a voice there. There’s a lot of people who do go through this. It’s not an experience that just happens to you and you’re like, okay, I’m done now. If you have children and they’re younger, that’s going to set the parameters of your life and your mindset for a really long time. What does it feel like when all of a sudden you’re divorced and your children aren’t with you on the holidays or you want to go on vacation or they’re going on vacation with your former spouse but you have no idea who they’re with? That’s why I went back and I threaded those real moments into the book.

Zibby: I am divorced and remarried. I have four kids with my previous husband. The passages about that, for me, were like, ah, finally. You’re right. People don’t write about it a lot. There was one thing you wrote in the book, you said, “The loss of time with my daughters was the toxic coating on the divorce pill I was forced to swallow. It is hard to accept that suddenly your children will only be with you part of the time and when they are not with you, you have no say or control over what they do or whom they are with.” I was like, amen. It is so hard. It’s been five years for me. It’s not like it gets all that much easier when you’re out of control of the most precious commodity in your life, basically.

Lisa: If fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce, that’s a huge segment of the population, then, that has this as a reality in their life, and how that changes. They say that divorce is second to death in terms of tragic things that you go through in your life. It really does change people’s perspectives and everything else. That’s why I decided to go ahead and add those parts. I wanted other women or men — I think the book honestly appeals more to women than men. I wanted them to know that, you know what, yeah, I feel this too, these kind of vulnerabilities and the expectation to be this mother. At the same time, you’re still a woman with desires and wants and dreams of your own. How do you do both? Why is everybody always criticizing the mom? She’s doing this, so she must not be a good mom. That’s why I wanted to add the divorced mother and the woman aspect of it in this. That’s how it came about.

Zibby: Wow, that’s great. It’s so nice. The show so far, first we were in war-torn Turkey and then underwater swimming. Now here I am with you walking the streets of Paris and cooking. All these books, it’s just amazing. Also, the senses evoked from your book too, you were so detailed about where you would go to get a certain — all these places you were exploring and getting ingredients and apartments you were visiting. I was like, this is great. I’m on an apartment tour of Paris. I feel like I never have to go to an open house in Paris. I’ve done it all.

Lisa: I wanted people to go there with me. I think I always wrote like that because, for example, my parents really never traveled. I was always explaining to them, trying to share the experience with them. I talk about how I described to my grandmother being in Alsace that time. For me, if we’re fortunate enough to have the ability to travel, I think it’s nice to share that with other people. That’s what I find so lovely about books. We can go into someone else’s world without actually being there and learn something, experience something, and add to our own to-do list for our lives.

Zibby: It transported me in a way and also validated a lot of my own feelings about my own family. When a book can do two things in one, I’m like, this is great. Plus, the whole overcoming — you were saying you love memoir. I love memoir too, especially when people get over something. You did that. The illness that you described in the beginning, which I keep coming back to, was so life or death and debilitating. Then you sort of rose from the ashes and ended up doing all these things as a result. It has all the ingredients.

Lisa: In truth, I was driven by panic, really. I went from being happy and like, I’m rebuilding my life and look at how happy I am, and literally within twelve hours, my body was poisoning itself. Nobody could ever tell me how I got so sick. It wasn’t like I was in a car accident and then it was, oh, there’s an explanation, or you caught this. That kind of impermanence really put a fire under my bum to go, I don’t know how long I’m going to be here. What do I want to teach my daughters? What do I want to do for myself? I went from emailing my sister-in-law the combination to my safe to having the ability to write a to-do list. I’m like, okay, if I have this gift of days, I want to make the most of it. That’s up to me. As you know, especially when you’re in a divorce framework, A to B is not going to be a straight line. I think it’s important for people to realize that. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your circumstances are. We all have different talents and circumstances. You can make it happen. We can all find our joy of life. Tragedies and bad experiences are going to happen to all of us. We’ll always be searching for that calm after our equilibrium is shaken up. This was mine. I hope it resonates with other people as well.

Zibby: That’s great. Thank you, Lisa. Thanks for coming on the show. To be continued. There’s so much we didn’t get to. These ten minutes are too fast, but to be continued. Thank you for coming on today.

Lisa: Thank you.

Zibby: Do you have your book right there just to hold up?

Lisa: I do.

Zibby: Paris, Part Time. Looks amazing. Awesome. By Lisa Morgan. Add it to your list.

Lisa: Thank you so much. Enjoy your day.

Lisa Baker Morgan, PARIS, PART TIME