An exploration of “the profound connection between eating and reading.”
Food blogger and Brooklyn-based butcher Nicoletti has pretty good taste in books and food alike, though some of them are acquired and perhaps won’t be widely shared. A pig’s head recipe, for example, has its gruesome aspects, and even if you call it Porchetta di Testa, there’s still that Lord of the Flies association. To her credit, Nicoletti doesn’t avoid that pairing—far from it. To her demerit, she has two chapters devoted to Donna Tartt and not a one devoted to Faulkner (corn soufflé, anyone?). Some of the recipes and their bookish pairings seem rather too obvious, and the book choices tend to the middlebrow: Lynne Banks’ The Indian in the Cupboard as inspiration for an ordinary roast beef sandwich just doesn’t quite scintillate. Sometimes the connections are a little loose, but they yield nice food anyway: Little House on the Prairie could have just as easily teamed with a recipe for corn dodgers, or for prairie oysters, for that matter, but the sausage concoction that Nicoletti serves up is an easy-to-make delight, certainly easier than taming the prairie. The author is at her best when keeping close to home and hearth and to the beloved books of childhood: readers will want not only to try her take on cacio e pepe, but also to hunt up Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona series of Calabrian-inspired yarns. Another highlight, obvious though it may be, is a Melville-an chowdah; Nicoletti deserves a medal for explaining elsewhere why hot soup in a blender isn’t a good idea, though she doesn’t work the obvious Phantom of the Opera (or V for Vendetta) possibilities. And is it too soon to say that no Sylvia Plath recipe should involve using an oven? Good, because Nicoletti’s recipe for a Bell Jar–inspired crab and avocado salad is lovely.
All in all, a pleasure for hungry readers.