I was struck by the sheer volume of food-related reads at my local bookstore recently, which led me to wonder: With so many "perfect foodie holiday gifts," how does one choose? So, today, we're trying something new: Food-related book reviews. As always, we share our impressions here so you can decide for yourself. A big thank you to our friend Meredith Kaffel for taking on the task of writing our first review and who reads way more than I do. I'm curious to hear your thoughts too, so let me know. Questions, feedback, and recommendations are welcome always. - Amy
Growing up, my favorite place to read was the kitchen table, and I credit that childhood habit with imprinting on me that reading and eating are intertwined. Both acts are nourishing, satisfying, and sustaining; both can serve as vehicles of pleasure or escape. Given their natural linkage, then, it is a special alchemy that occurs when a writer actively blends them together. And few writers pull this marriage off as well as bestselling and James A. Beard Award-winning author, Mark Kurlansky.
The critical thing to know about Kurlansky’s latest offering is this: Edible Stories is a delicious novel-in-stories devoted to food. From its dedication (“To Marian, who loves her bulots, Talia with her fresh grilled sardines…”) to its chapter headings (“The Icing on the Cake,” “Osetra,” “Hot Pot”), to its page content, Edible Stories is a love letter to gustatory pleasure and peculiarity, and to the revealing and sometimes inexplicable way that food insinuates its way into our lives and changes us forever. There is “Orangina,” a story which shows how a single soda can lead to love, loss, and revolution, and also “The Soup,” which eerily conjures, through an indigenous Alaskan soup, themes of language, communication, and family.
In Edible Stories, Kurlansky writes about a woman who falls in love because of the way a man talks about crème brulee, and another woman who falls out of love because her husband no longer cares about food. This book is subtle, but wickedly funny, and pungent in its well-marinated prose. Like the best meals, once you have experienced Kurlansky’s take on food, you can never go back and unlearn the taste – nor will you want to.
Meredith Kaffel is a literary agent in New York City and a rampant foodie.