Thursday, October 27, 2011

Edible words

Book: Edible Stories

Author: Mark Kurlansky

Published: 2010 (Riverhead Books)

Pages: 265

Food is such a good revelation of our human natures because it’s a necessity that we can dress up to a luxury, the most raw biological process turned into high elaborate ceremony. Our relationships to it bring us together as cultures and push us apart into individuals as we make weird faces at our friends when they use too much ketchup on their fries. What, when, and how someone eats says a lot about them and their worldview. Also, a lot of it is delicious.

Kurlansky manages to wring some fleeting profundity from that line of thought in most of these stories. He uses recurring characters that slip and slide in and out of each other’s food lives to weave a sense of continuity that doesn’t stick well but provides nice consistent background in vignettes. The first one, about a guy who gets amnesia and loses his senses of smell and taste from falling in a hole, is my favorite. I like the semi-detached way his thought process is described and how it re-shapes his world from the inside out. In later stories, he ends up becoming a nationwide Food Network-type star and is scared to death that someone will find out his secret.

The story about a lady who goes to a Yankees game with her one-night stand and is bothered that he wants to eat a fancy spread he brought from home instead of ballpark hotdogs is interesting, too, but it never shows any glimpse of the absurdity that glimmers in unexpected but welcome places through the rest of the book.

The food is never as important as I think it will be in each story. I was hoping for more reliance on food as character building or explaining; but I wasn’t disappointed in the book as a whole. It was one of those books that in my head gets read by a soft, low voice with the slightest hint of a British accent. Translated into the real world that means I stayed pretty much interested the whole way through.

In this picture, the thing that looks like a hair is actually an antenna stuck to the sticky bit where the price sticker used to be. I finished this book the first night I spent in my new apartment and the first time I saw a bug in there, so, you know. Whap. 

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