Jennifer Cognard-Black / Reviewed by Felita Daniels / 384 Pages
The subtitle is The Making of a Literary Meal. I need to make something transparent so that you can decide if this is a book you would enjoy or not. Yes, it does have recipes, so technically, it is a cookbook. No, it is not like any cookbook you have ever perused. I would guess it is literature 80%, recipes 20%. This book has poetry, essays on how food and cookbooks can serve as a commentary on the times of that era, slice of life stories such as how to go mushroom hunting, and all sorts of lovely reading about food, cooking and how we feel about those aspects of our lives.
I love to cook and I have two shelves of cookbooks. I enjoy Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver cookbooks where they also share about entertaining and how they feel about food. I also love mysteries and have a Nero Wolfe and Nancy Drew cookbook. These books tie in with the characters of the mystery novels. So I was fairly certain this would be a book I would enjoy. If that rings a bell, you will probably love this book as much as I do.
This book is literature about cooking. Scholarly without being stuffy. It highlights other wonderful books that include food as part of their theme such as Green Fried Tomatoes and the Whistle Stop Café and Pass the Polenta: And Other Writings from the Kitchen.
It also discusses how food infuses our language and vocabulary.
‘In addition to bread’s place as a food staple in most homes, it has also entered our language as a powerful metaphor. A person who supports a family economically is referred to as a ‘breadwinner,’ and ‘bread and butter’ is a phrase that refers to a person’s source of regular income.”
There was even a section on food and funerals.
“When words fail us, we offer food. A platter of fried chicken says, ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’ A chocolate layer cake whispers, I know you feel that life has soured, so here is something sweet.”
There are no photographs, but there are a few illustrations. At the end of the work there is a section entitled ‘Contributors.’ Each one is given a paragraph of biography and some of their book titles or works may be mentioned. Next are listings of the citations for excerpts in the work if you wish to seek out the entire work.
This book may not have a wide reaching audience, but the folks that it was meant for will absolutely ‘eat it up’ with a smile on their face.