In Bailey’s debut novel, a blossoming relationship between a gay man and his allegedly straight neighbor begins through the art of cooking.
Pierre Jackson moves to Toronto from Detroit to be with his wealthy news anchor fiance, Dre. But after they have a dramatic fight, Pierre spends some time living on his own and enrolls in a French cooking class. His messy apron quickly catches the eye of his new neighbor, Vijay Khakwani, who invites him to come to his apartment every Thursday night to teach him how to cook. Pierre is instantly attracted, but due to Vijay’s swaggering, “straight-boy” persona, he tries to subdue his emotions as they develop a strong friendship. Vijay has his own problems, particularly with his overbearing, high-powered lawyer mother, who wants him to follow through on an arranged marriage to a woman. He tries to channel his frustration into meditation and studying the teachings of Buddhism, but he soon becomes overwhelmed with confusion about his true feelings for Pierre. The plot becomes increasingly absorbing when Dre reappears in Pierre’s life in an attempt to repair their relationship; meanwhile, Vijay tries desperately to suppress his attraction to men during a complicated identity crisis. Bailey’s novel is smart, captivating, and hilarious, seasoned with spicy moments of intimacy, hip and witty dialogue, and a hefty serving of drama. It tackles a wide range of subjects, including difficult-to-navigate gray areas of LGBT relationships, Buddhist philosophy, cultural identity, and the subtle yet prevailing homophobic tendencies of a supposedly welcoming modern society. The author beautifully melds the art of cooking with rising romantic desire and also examines engaging cultural dynamics as Pierre, an African-American man from Detroit, teaches Vijay, an Indo-Guyanese man who’s fairly far-removed from his cultural heritage, how to cook and enjoy traditional Indian cuisine. Also, although Pierre and Dre move to Toronto in order to be legally married, Dre still harbors anxieties about his family’s homophobia, and he worries that he’ll be treated differently at his workplace as an openly gay man. Although the novel’s ending is a surprise, readers won’t be disappointed.
An excellent read, especially for those who love cooking, romance, and realistically poignant LGBT themes.