'How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare that after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.' No one made any reply. She then yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest of some amusement. — from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
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August 31, 2015

Voracious




Oh, this was fun. I'm so glad, because I've have such mixed experiences with contemporary memoirs, but the premise for this one was wonderful and I really wanted to like it. :)

The author, Cara Nicoletti, grew up a few towns away and spent afternoons after school playing with her cousins in her grandfather's butcher shop. When I started reading, I thought I recognized his name, and then I connected it with one of the places I discovered when I first moved here. {The Salett's I loved going to wasn't the traditional butcher shop she describes, but a tiny store lined with freezer cases stocked with not terribly expensive but very elegant individually wrapped portions of meat. It  must have been an offshoot of some kind of restaurant-supply business, and it was very enticing. My favorite thing to buy was chic little stuffed chicken breasts, which I could bake either for myself or when people were coming for dinner. I miss that little store!} For me, that local, less-than-six-degrees-of-separation thing is appealing in a memoir.

She also describes herself as a child who loved to read and who was obsessed with descriptions of food in the books she read, even writing out imaginary recipes on the inside back covers of her books. {Obviously, my kind of person.} In college, she worked in coffee shops and later as a baker; when she was laid off during the recession she found work as an apprentice butcher in Brooklyn's best butcher shop, and started first a literary supper club and then a 'literary food blog.'  {As I said, obviously my kind of person. :)}

In Voracious, she writes short, thoughtful vignettes about the many books she read as a child, then as an adolescent/college student, and finally as an adult, describing the food she found in them, telling a story {about the soft-boiled eggs in Emma, and a job interview that consisted of cooking one for the chef} and then crafting a recipe. She's much younger than I am, but we still have some childhood books in common, like Nancy Drew {double chocolate walnut sundaes} and Pippi Longstocking {buttermilk pancakes} and many more later, like Pride and Prejudice {white soup}. She's also found food in books that I remember this way, like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow {buckwheat pancakes}, and others that I don't, like Mrs. Dalloway {chocolate eclairs, of all things}, but now I just have a reason to read them again.

I almost skipped this book because it was one of many that came in for me at the library all at once, but then I tucked it in my work bag, dipped into a few of the short chapters on the bus going to work and coming home, looked forward to my next ride, and even bookmarked a few recipes — currant buns from The Secret Garden, those buckwheat pancakes, an olive oil yogurt cake from Middlesex, honey-poppy seed cake from The Aeneid, and Mr. Woodhouse's perfect, harmless soft-boiled egg — to try soon.


3 comments:

Lisa said...

This does sound like fun! I will look for a copy. I don't remember ice cream in Nancy Drew, but it would be a good excuse to eat one :) I do remember how disappointed I was when I first read the recipe for white soup. I think I'll take a bowl of gruel with Mr. W instead.

Lory said...

I really liked this one as well. The juggling of personal reflections and literary insights was well done, and the food sounded delicious (except for the Lord of the Flies pig head). I want to try the currant buns too!

Vintage Reading said...

This sounds wonderful. Love the Emma soft-boiled egg reference and I remember it from the novel. I want to read this.

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