Aftertaste (A Novel in Five Courses)-by Meredith Mileti

August20

Just after giving birth to her precious Chloe, Mira finds that she has been deceived and deserted by her husband and she is pissed off!  No, I mean anger that I have apparently never experienced; anger that is so explosive it lands Mira in jail.  This is anger, as I have never known.  You see, I don’t get “anger”.  I do experience a full range of emotions and I do know what anger feels like, but I don’t “get” it.  Some people don’t get dark humour or pure joy (thinking, surely she can’t always be this happy), but I don’t get anger.  So I was intrigued by the beginning of Mileti’s story, but not in that “I can’t put this book down”, way.  The ball really started rolling for me in the second third of the book, as Mira starts to create relationships and begin rebuilding her life in an admirable way.  By the conclusion of the novel, I was completely smitten by all (most) of the characters but primarily rooting Mira along and she discovers her passion and her joy and that her anger has been washed away.  She even tries her hand at being a food writer, which I got a particular hoot over.  Here are a couple of my favourite excerpts:

Even from across the room, the smell makes me want to swoon.  Jake has made my favourite dish-his signature take on cassoulet, made with wild boar sausage braised in Barolo, cannellini beans, fennel, and sweet red peppers.  I can hear the hollow snap as he breaks the delicate crust of toasted bread, garlic and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.  He fills a shallow bowl and places it reverently in front of me.

“It’s not exactly summer fare, but I know that it is your favorite.  I missed making it for you this winter.  It actually works nicely with you pizza recipe which has always been one of my favorites.  We make a pretty good team, don’t you think?” he says softly. “Go ahead, taste it.”

“Aren’t you going to join me?”

“Of course,” he says, raising his eyes to meet mine.  I watch as he fills his plate, picks up a bottle of wine and two glasses, and joins me at the table.  He pours us each a glass of red wine.  “Well?” he asks, his eyes focused, unblinking, on my face.

I spear a piece of meat, which yields easily to my fork, and raise it to my lips.  I take a deep breath and close my eyes.  I give Dr. D-P’s anthropologist one last desperate try, but all I can taste is Jake.  The flavours are at once complex and earthy.  I taste every ingredient: the thick slightly gamey taste of the boar; the subtle undercurrent of the fennel, which, when braised, releases a delicate licorice perfume; the gentle creaminess of the beans; the smoky heat of the roasted peppers; the harmonious balance of the wine.

It tastes like love.”

chapter 30, page 313

I also loved this thoughtful analysis, just slightly later (chapter 31, page 317):

The great gourmand, Auguste Escoffier, once said, “Good cooking is the essence to true happiness.”  Did he mean happiness is to be found in the act of cooking?  Or in the appreciation of the result?  If the former, it should follow that all good cooks are happy.  But most of us aren’t, at least the ones I’ve known.  Most of the cooks I know are looking for something.  The lucky ones, people like Boulie and Silvano, seem to have found it, while the rest of us soldier on, searching for love, or adulation, or affirmation, gathering scraps wherever we can find them.

Maybe what Escoffier meant was that true happiness is to be found in one’s ability to satisfy a basic human need so spectacularly.  Those of us content to take our happiness secondhand cook because what we want, what we crave, is to be needed.  Nurturers extraordinaire, brokers of comfort, we hope to turn the tables on our own needs by filling the stomachs and souls of the world.

In Mereith Mileti’s postscript, she adds:

I am not Mira.  I’m an untrained, albeit incredibly enthusiastic, home cook.  That said, I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things from my research and testing for this novel-Mira has been a fine teacher.  Please don’t hesitate to improvise and make the recipes your own, because cooking, at its best, is both an expression of self and a gift of love.

Kath’s quote: ” I’ve set the board: henceforth ’tis yours to eat.”-Dante

Heart Book

Love-that is all.

 

 


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