Monday, August 1, 2011

Reckless Appetites by Jacqueline Deval

This book is delicious! It's a fanciful tale with an abundance of literary references and recipes. 

Imagine a woman. Her name is Pomme. She is in love, alone in her room, but not lonely. She is spending the evening with Colette in mind, seeking the secrets of her own appetite. Pomme's intended lover, Jeremy, has resisted her, cautious before plunging into the turmoil of a passionate affair. The excruciating pace -so painfully slow- has her in a perpetual and exquisite state of anticipation. "Will he or won't he?" she demands aloud to herself, to Colette. "How can I have him?" Like the young woman who frequents an opium den in one of Colette's stories, Pomme breathes in the black, appetizing aroma of fresh truffles or burnt cocoa, hoping to find comfort in the heady sensation of patience, optimism, and a vague hunger. Tonight under Colette's guidance, she'll take her desire by planning the dinner she will prepare for Jeremy. A most important meal. (opening paragraph)

The truffle itself does not provoke a loving reaction. More important is the atmosphere that the food helps to create. Any dish that has a method of preparation called Reve d'Amour, or Dream of Love, has to be the right one to serve. Truffles a la Reve d'Amour are cooked in champagne with herbs for twenty-five minutes and left to cool in the stock for twenty-four hours. pg12

The guiding rule for picnic baskets might be taken from Henry James, who said they should be "not so good as to fail of an amusing disorder, nor yet so bad as to defeat the proper function of the repast." Evelyn Waugh once described a picnic of tea and banana sandwiches. The key to making a successful banana sandwich is slicing the bananas finely enough and arranging them on buttered homemade bread. The exactness required to prevent the bananas from squelching out after the first bite would have appealed to Henry James's sense of precision. 

Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins traveled through Europe in the mid-1800s, heading for Chamonix, as Dickens wrote in a letter home, "with a Stasbourg sausage, a bottle of wine, brandy, kirsch-wasser and plenty of bread to keep of hunger on the road." They reached Bolsena, an Italien lake town near Orvieto, where once a year the citizens blanket the streets in flowers, and Dickens reported that they "made a great fire, and strengthened the country wine with some brandy (we always carry brandy) and mulled it with cloves (we always carry cloves) and went to bed." Since reading Dicken's letters, I carry cloves as well as cardamom in my pockets. Their pungent flavors sweeten the breath. pg171


Robyn said...

It does sound delicious. Love the excerpts. Thanks for sharing.

Trish said...

It's perfect for bookish people who love to cook.

Michael said...

Just read this. I love a novel with a bibliography and index.

Trish said...

Yes! It's more interactive that way.