Kurlansky (The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris, 2010, etc.) dishes up a loosely concatenated novel, each part titled after a food that plays a starring role in that chapter.
The surrealistic opening, “Red Sea Salt,” introduces us to Robert Eggle, who finds himself literally in a hole. When he emerges, he discovers that he’s lost both his memory and his sense of smell and taste. He needs to re-create his personal and professional life but discovers it’s not that difficult to fake his way through—even though it turns out he’s a noted writer on food. (In a later chapter, it’s mentioned that he’s about to get his own show on the Food Channel.) In another chapter, a woman finds out she’s incompatible with her putatively perfect lover when they go to a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. She’s turned off by his gourmet tastes, for all she wants is standard stadium fare—hot dogs and beer—while he brings in Cajun shrimp, stuffed veal with pistachios and artichokes in herbs and olive oil. In “Osetra,” a tough brother (ironically nicknamed Wonderbread) is involved in filching some food from a market and discovers the complex pleasure of Osetra caviar: “It exploded on his tongue—fragile, buttery bubbles of flavor, dark and rich as his mother’s bacalao.” “Belons” takes us to France, where an aging man fulfills his dream of living in Paris and also discovers belons, succulent oysters from Brittany, that work their aphrodisiac magic. In “Menudo,” a senator in Mexico on an official political visit beds down with his translator, leading to a leisurely erotic day because she won’t let him leave until he tastes her menudo…which, like love and sex, cannot be rushed. In another chapter, the scion of a family owning an estate in Bordeaux goes to Paris and discovers an even more succulent beverage—Orangina.
A delicious and delectable novel by an award-winning food writer that leaves you wanting more.