Eat Drink Read Watch
Published on Friday, July 2, 2010 - 12:36pm
I have had an insatiable sweet tooth all my life. When I'm "full," I mean that I can't have another bite of the main course; there’s always room for dessert. Fortunately I've grown enough to appreciate more than just sweets. In addition, it has become (almost) as delightful to experience a story about food as it is to eat it; whether it's a foodie memoir, a movie, or a work of fiction with sumptuous descriptions, I feel in good company when an artist captures the pleasures of food.
In The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, nine-year-old Rose Edelstein discovers that she can taste the emotions of every person involved in the food she eats, from the farmer who planted the seeds to the person who prepared the meal. Like the empathic John Coffey in The Green Mile, however, Rose becomes more burdened than uplifted by her gift, making Lemon Cake a melancholy story laced with magical realism.
Which brings us to the master of magical realism, Laura Esquivel. If you have not read the novel Like Water for Chocolate, or watched the film adaptation, you are denying yourself a treat. Tita, the youngest daughter in the De la Garza family, is forbidden to marry her lover Pedro because her Mama Elena adheres to the tradition that the youngest daughter must remain unmarried in order to care for her mother. Doomed to live without Tita, Pedro reluctantly marries her older sister Rosaura; however, Tita, who is a gifted cook, unconsciously uses her extraordinary culinary skills to draw Pedro back to her. The mother-daughter struggle continues throughout the book until Tita eventually finds a way to express herself outside the kitchen and at last gets a chance at love. Like Water for Chocolate also features Tita's recipes; a bewitched, naked sister running off on horseback (still naked) with her newfound lover; and a dose of tragedy which, fortunately, does not detract from the whimsy, humor and richness of the book.
Antwone Fisher, based on Fisher's memoir, Finding Fish, is definitely not a story with food at its center. Rather, it is a painful account of his life in foster care, where Fisher suffered constant humiliation from his foster mother and sexual abuse at the hands of a female neighbor. Directed by Denzel Washington, the movie begins with the adult Antwone, enlisted in the navy, placed under orders to see a psychiatrist due to a violent outburst. Through therapy he uncovers his pain and confronts the memories that haunt him. Food comes into play in a particularly touching scene: Antwone has tracked down a family relation, and after a brief but promising phone conversation she invites him over for a meal. Not only does Antwone meet his aunt; his entire extended family awaits him, standing around a table overflowing with food. If you want to know what happens, you can read the user reviews here, but if you are a sucker for poignant moments, you'll want to see this scene play out and learn more about its significance.
DC Public Library has a bountiful selection of food-inspired fiction, movies and memoirs. Enjoy!
- In the Kitchen by Monica Ali
- Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs
- Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
- Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber
- The Butcher and the Vegetarian: One Woman's Romp Through a World of Men, Meat, and Moral Crisis by Tara Austen Weaver (92 W3645)
- The Hunger: A Story of Food, Desire, and Ambition by John DeLucie (call number: 641.5092 D366)
- Under the Table: Saucy Tales from Culinary School by Katherine Darling (call number: 641.5 D221)
- I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci (call number: 92 M529)
- The Sharper the Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn (call number: 641.07 F622)