Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Foodie Book Review - Gourmet Rhapsody, by Muriel Barbery

I picked up a copy of Gourmet Rhapsody because the premise sounded interesting: a famous food critic, while on his deathbed, searches his memory for one flavor in particular that he longs to taste once again.

Amazon made it sound really terrific:
Proust's infamous madeleine cannot hold a candle to the lush, winsome memories of meals past that you'll find in Muriel Barbery's Gourmet Rhapsody. M. Pierre Arthens is France's premier restaurant critic—so premier in fact that he's simply called the Maître—and we meet him as he lies in bed, waiting to die. Fervently he mines years of gastronomic delights and discoveries in search of one single flavor, one that he says is "the only true thing ever accomplished." What unfolds—in vignettes narrated by him and by a chorus of his familiars (most human, some quite comically not)—is a portrait of a man in thrall to the very ingredient that makes French cuisine so inescapably, ecstatically, seductive: It's not cream, nor cognac, but the cook who defines those glorious tastes. "The only true work of art, in the end," he says, "is another person's feast." --Anne Bartholomew
Unfortunately, the Maître is a loathsome character and before I was halfway through I cared not if he ever discovered that illusive flavor. Bah. And the writing is a bit ponderous to boot.

In any case, Apostrophe, a boulangerie/patisserie in London and Gallic Books are having a little contest. Submit an essay of no more than 500 words describing a gourmet experience of your own and you can win a one night stay in London, a pair of tickets to see The 39 Steps, dinner for two at Inamo, and breakfast for two at Apostrophe. Contest ends July 2, so if you're interested in entering, click here post haste!