Skip to main content

An Unconventional Book Review: Gourmet Rhapsody

Can I seduce you into reading a book by stringing together some memorable excerpts from the book?

In the case of a book like GOURMET RHAPSODY it might just work because the book itself is not so much a story as a meditation on what we value in life. Or in the case of the main character, 'the world's greatest food critic', a desperate search for the most meaningful taste memory of his life. Recollections of family and friends merely get in his way as he scrolls through a lifetime of sensory memories in a race against time.

Perhaps it is this cold, gimlet-eyed view of human relationships that had left so many readers feeling quite lukewarm about this book, especially those readers who came to this book after reading THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG (also written by Muriel Barbery) which has enjoyed such popularity both in the United States and in Europe.

As I mentioned above the plot of GOURMET is rather thin. We meet the protagonist as he lays in his bed having just been informed that he has 48 hours to live. We spend those remaining hours by his side (he never does leave the bed, except in his imagination) as participants in his recollections. Interspersed between these chapters, like a Greek chorus, are brief, often bitter, soliloquies by those who have attempted to love the old bastard throughout his life only to find that the only thing he is capable of loving is himself....and his genius at critiquing food.

Given this unpleasant protagonist and lack of plot, what redeeming qualities would entice one to read this book?

The book's true delight comes through the delicious descriptions of food and memories of food written by Muriel Barbery. So, if you're like me, and enjoy talented food writers such as MFK Fisher and Laurie Colwin, give consideration to GOURMET RHAPSODY.

And this is where I will leave you, with the author's words...

On tomatoes: "In her dirty hand, deformed by work in the fields, there it sat: crimson in its taut silken finery, undulating with the occasional more tender hollow, with a communicable cheerfulness about it like a plumpish woman in her party dress hoping to compensate for the inconvenience of her extra pounds by means of a disarming chubbiness evoking an irresistible desire to bite into her flesh."

On a ham sandwich: "Two thin slices of raw smoked ham, silky and supple along languid folds, some salted butter, a hunk of bread. A vigorous taste and smooth texture: improbable but delectable."

On one's hosts: "The food was simple and delicious, but what I really devoured-to the point of relegating oysters, ham, asparagus and chicken to the rank of secondary accompaniments-I feasted on their words [..] the sort of words that, at time, delight one much more than the pleasures of the flesh."


larramiefg said…
That's different.....
Keetha said…
You had me at "the book itself is not so much a story as a meditation on what we value in life." I'll check it out!

Popular posts from this blog

When our spirit hungers

The precocious toddler’s interest in talking to her mother grew in insistence as the gathered group settled in for an hour of silent prayer. Shushing didn’t work, so the mother led her child into an adjoining room where she would still be part of the sanctuary, but sound would be dampened. Despite the closed door and heavy glass walls, the child’s fervent desire to speak with her mother was still audible.
I said a prayer for the patient mother determined to stay, and for the child who was either tired or hungry or impatient for Mom’s undivided attention. And then tried to bring my wandering thoughts back to prayer. I had come to Adoration with my own pressing need for answers.
Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed a growing emptiness in my heart. A void, as if something is missing. It’s not psychological. Not physical. After doing an internal check, I determined it’s a spiritual void that I’m experiencing.
No, I’m not doubting God, his existence or goodness. I have full confidence in…

Open to the Spirit - Book Review

Open to the Sprit is like reading a letter from a friend. McKnight writes a very accessible introduction to the Holy Spirit and its role in our spiritual life. McKnight uses several stories from his life and others to share how the Holy Spirit consoles and deepens our daily spiritual walk. A terrific book for those seeking an introduction to a relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Simple Spinach and Kale Fettucine

On Wednesday I picked up my first box of organic from the High Country Conservation Center’s Summit CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Way back in February, I bought a ‘share’ in this summer’s crop, which entitles me to a weekly box of organic vegetables from mid-June through October.

Now that the vegetables have arrived, I have two reactions: 1) Wow! This is so exciting! Look at these beautiful vegetables, I’m going to be so healthy. 2) Yikes! What am I going to do with four bags of greens?

For the next sixteen weeks, I want to share my culinary adventures as I cook my way through my CSA box each week. Even if you don’t subscribe to the CSA share, you’ll enjoy these recipes which focus on our summer bounty. I hope you’ll also be inspired to try more vegetable-centered meals. Now, back to those four bags of greens! 

This week’s recipe polished off two of the bags immediately. You can make this easy and tasty recipe for two or four people, just increase the amount of greens and th…