Sunday, October 28, 2012

FoodLit Fiction

Putting The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman to one side for later, I have (mostly) worked my way through the three  fictional FoodLit books currently in my possession.

I thought The Restaurant of Love Regained had a sweet charm.  It was about a young woman called Rinko who loses everything to a boyfriend, and so retreats back to her home village to start a special sort of restaurant: one that serves only one customer at a time.  There follows a series of stories concerning customers with problems which the heroine solves using the little known trouble-shooting strategy of cooking.  It reminded me a little, in terms of the writing and the accessibility, of Alexander McCall Smith's work.  Like 'The Number One Ladies Detective Agency' there is an overall plot, in this case the relationship between the heroine and mother, and takes several surprising turns.  It was light, whimsical and entertaining.  

Thank you Alma Books for sending me this copy - and apologies for how long it has taken me to get round to reading it.

The blurb on the back said that the book would appeal to people who liked 'Like Water For Chocolate' by Laura Esquivel so I bought that too.  This has been made into a film which I can imagine worked very well because the plot was straightforward and satisfying.  It had an original structure being divided into twelve chapters for each month of the year, and with each came a recipe that featured in the plot (although not all of the recipes were for food).  Again, it was a light read and relied on whimsy rather than aiming for development of setting and character.  It was vaguely in the past in a place where the youngest daughters were expected to forget any aspirations of having their own family, but to look after their mothers until the end of the mothers' days.  It gave the novel a folktale feel and quite often went further into the realms of fantasy: passion could actually set a place on fire, for instance, and Tita, the poor girl destined to devote her days to her formidable and irascible mother, had the knack of transferring her emotional state to the food she was preparing - sometimes to devastating effect.  

This latter idea was taken up by Aimee Bender in 'The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake'.  Here, the protagonist was called Rose and at the age of nine finds that she too can taste emotions in the food that she eats.  My edition comes recommended by Jodi Picoult, who found the writing beautiful, and like 'The Restaurant of Love Regained', it too is an international bestseller.  Unlike the first two books it is set in a recognisable place (near Hollywood), and relies on the odd behaviour of the characters to convey strangeness.  They don't listen to each other and seem to move around each other in a disconnected way which I believe is part of the point but I found jarring after a short while.  The writing itself also seemed disjointed and off-beat: 'I didn't move.  Mom kept smoothing her hair behind her ears.  Smooth, smooth.  Joseph stood, at his spot.'   Many people obviously love The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake but it was not for me, I'm afraid - I guess it is a matter of taste.

I have now moved on to FoodLit Fact.


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