Our food stories are part of our DNA. We can understand our food stories microscopically in the lab and look at how our cells have reacted and adapted throughout our evolution and intersection with each other and our environment, OR on the fun side, we can view our food stories macroscopically by examining the time period from which they stem , the location on this planet they are defined and how our changing socioeconomic status refines them. This summer, I undertook a significant project, which is to read all of Bon Appetite’s top foodie narratives of 2016 to see if I concur with the publishing magnate. In addition I want to focus more of my reading on the food driven narrative of which I plan on developing great expertise in. In view of this devoted readers, I will infuse into this project other food driven narratives because I am of rebellious nature. So sit back, grab your forks, knives and spoons as this issue of Bookisshh (and many more moving forward) celebrates the food story and how it plays out just about anywhere. Bon appetite!
The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller
Readers venture into the life of Olivia “Livvy” Rawlings, debut pastry chef who burns down the dining room of a posh, good ol’ boys country club in Boston with her acclaimed Baked Alaska. Narrated in first person, structured into months, seasons, festivals and competitions, readers follow Livvy as she escapes her incomplete life of failed relationships, lost family and crummy digs. Livvy’s departure from brash Boston is when the story really takes off. Livvy escapes to Guthrie, Vermont where she gains employment at The Maple Inn thanks to her childhood best friend, Hannah. Miller’s description of apple pie, sugar house, forest and orchard are stunning. Readers are so deeply immersed in this context they can’t help but feel as if they are breathing in lush green and sweet clean air. Contrasting the environmental detail is delicious detail of pastry, from cutting butter into flour and soaking fruit in honey, sugar, and lemon, to portrait like moments of stunning plates. The plot is typical of running away to find oneself, finding that and more–love. The people Livvy ties into and the heartwarming relationships she develops with them aid her discovery and healing. Magaret, Dotty , Martin and Henry are moral standouts and well designed. They certainly model people I’d like to know…This book is a little, Our Town by Thornton Wilder and a little, Chocolat by Joanne Harris. Upon finishing it you will definitely find your way to either Vermont or the pie section at your favorite bakery!
Cooking For Picasso by Camille Aubray
A gorgeous palate offering up dual plot lines of two generations of women from one family, Ondine and grandaughter, Celine. Contained herein are sumptuous feasts, tales of Picasso’s conquests both on and off the canvas, poetic Provence both yesterday and at present. Cooking for Picasso offers well drawn characters whose lives extend pre and post World War II France and today as investors vacuum up, tear down and renew a Europe never to be known again. This is a story of lost women who find themselves. Mystery is woven intricately as paintings and destinies unfold. The novel uses subtle twists and connections told in such sensual fashion. Using cuisine and capturing it in a journal a recording of time when Picasso hid in France under an assumed name, Ondine enchants him with food back to life and he unveils her virtue in experiences that bring her into bloom and onto canvas. As time passes Ondine loses Picasso and rediscovers her lost love. They run to America where tragedy intrudes on their peace and home to Juan le Pins, France they return and as a generation unfolds, leave and return again. Enter Celine who wants to restore her mother Julie’s legacy (the painting of Ondine by Picasso) before Julie departs due to illness. Celine returns to France under the auspices of a cooking class which serves as the backdrop for her snooping and uncovering of family secrets. It definitely reads as fiction during the latter section of the work as it’s little too unreal during the Top Chef-esque restaurant scenes but remains fun nonetheless. Aubray’s voice allows for tongue and cheek humor in both first and third person narrative portions. This book satisfies so many aesthetic aspects as it delights the nose, palate and eye making every day spent reading it a little more lively!
The Memory of Lemon by Judith Fertig
This one is a little bit historical fiction, and a lot a bit of baking! If you like Ohio stories, party planning, interpretive baking, and generational stories passed down through recipes this one lives up to the list fairly well . Fertig should offer readers a family tree visual to assist readers in managing the arduous task of focusing on the generations of Newcombs and O’Neils as they unfold and intersect one another. The author states, “Memory is passed through DNA and is triggered by taste and smell..” All of this is captured in the goodies prepared and detailed for hungry readers. Main character Neeley, is in the throes of a contentious divorce and love affair with her childhood par amour. Her father, a homeless vet with PTSD is across the country trying to pull his life together as he fights off flashbacks and dreams in Vietnam during the war. He and Neeley exchange letters and baked goods featuring lemon as they bridge their conflicts and relationship back together. In the context of this mess, Neeley and her team are planning a wedding for difficult clients, Lydia and her mom, Mrs. Cadence Stidham who clearly have different visions of Lydia’s pending wedding. What it comes down to is an earthly, elegant Appalachian theme packed with Bourban and Branch water, dulcimer music, wildflowers in jelly jars, petite biscuits and ham and some of the most beautiful cookies and wedding cake concepts ever to be savored. Time toggles back and forth from present to the 1800s Ohio River Valley community and readers meet Abigail, healer and herb women who assists runaway slaves on their underground railroad journey. It is her coldwater shack that brings eveybody together at the climactic wedding. Wanderers and losers of memory struggle to preserve what is lost except when their taste is confronted with lemon and suddenly memories come back. Fertig’s ability to diagnose palate pleasers for her characters, their needs transmitted through Neeley who intuits the past and present because of them. Where this falls short is the ending is a little sappy which fosters this as lite sensate reading, but the connection between people past and present using the vehicle of lemon is astounding and worthwhile!
The main facts in life are five: birth, food, sleep, love and death
* Click on the link below to access the review of The Restaurant Critic’s Wife. This is part of the Bon Appetite challenge!