The Gleeful Gourmand: Books to Make Your Taste Buds Come Alive!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Books to Make Your Taste Buds Come Alive!



I’ve mentioned before that some of my favorite books revolve around food. I firmly believe any book can be made better by delectable descriptions of what the characters are eating. Food in a book changes everything: the mood, the dialogue, and the sense of scene. Maybe you’ve seen the sidebar at the right – “Tasty Readings”. These are my all-time favorite books (so far) that accomplish this well.

My recent addition is Richard C. Morais’ “The Hundred-Foot Journey.” It tells the tale of Hassan Haji, an unlikely gourmand who goes on an epic food journey through his homeland of India to a small provencal town in France, to Paris. Born into a family whose lives already revolve around food (they own a small restaurant and run a lunch-delivery service), he finds himself seduced by French cooking, and thus follows his rise to culinary fame.

What I found so intriguing about this book was that it not only talked about French food, which is my favorite, but it also went into great depths about Indian food – something I know very little about. As a direct result, I am now dying to go out and try some authentic Indian cuisine. Morais is an excellent writer and does a superb job of educating and enticing with his story. His dedication to infusing the novel with both true-to-life Indian and French cultures is seamless. It is the type of book that I had a very difficult time putting down.

Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:

“I do remember that after I butchered the hares, I marinated the pieces in white wine, bay leaf, crushed garlic, malted vinegar, sweet German mustard, and a few crushed and dried juniper berries, for that slightly pungent and piney aftertaste. Suitably softened, the hare then spent several hours cooking slowly in a cast-iron pot. It was nothing grand. It was simply my take on an old-fashioned country recipe, fleetingly glanced at during a study session up in Madame Mallory’s attic library, but it just seemed right for a chilly and windy autumn night. The side dishes I prepared were a mint-infused couscous, rather than the traditional butter noodles, and a cucumber-and-sour-cream salad dashed with a handful of lingonberries.”
Morais, Richard C. The Hundred-Foot Journey. New York: Scribner, 2008.

I think my only complaint is that Morais ended his novel a bit too hastily. It felt like a very abrupt ending, with some loose strings that I would have enjoyed seeing tied up. Maybe not in a nice, neat package, but at least with some finality. Regardless, it is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves reading about food, and a good story.

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