Saturday, May 31, 2008

Raided Library for Comfort Me With Apples

I was supposed to watch Sex and the City with HobbitGirl this afternoon - but a bad case of flu (her, not me) postponed those plans. Instead, I went to the library - again. This is my third trip to the library this week. I had to go back though, because the only copy of Comfort Me With Apples was due to be returned on 31st May - today. I had to get my hands on that copy before some other library patron steals it from me again.

Yes, I have been tracking the loan status of that book online for the past week. Yes, I can be relentless when I really want something. Yes, I love Ruth Reichl's writing. Yes, it is just a book. Yes, I am scary.

I did manage to find that copy of Comfort me With Apples, which I spent the whole afternoon reading at a coffee shop. I'm 144 pages into the book and I love it.

I think Tender at the Bone reads so well because Reichl understands the power of a story. It is a memoir of Reichl growing up, coping with school, making friends, falling in love, marrying and finding her place in the world. Like David Copperfield, it is structured as a bildungsroman. Through food, and through writing, Ruth Reichl finally discovers her calling. At the end, when she quotes her friend, Marion Cunningham (Marion was an alcoholic who reinvented herself in her middle age after she attended a cooking class by James Beard), she might as well be talking about herself:

My family may not have liked it, but I think I finally became the person I was meant to be.

I think the reason I love Ruth Reichl is because she shares the same ideas on food and life as M.F.K. Fisher. In Fisher's 'Foreword' to The Gatronomical Me, she wrote:

It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it ... and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied ... and it is all one.

Food and love and life - they are the same. Yes, Reichl is writing about the food - but she is really writing about falling in love and making life's mistakes. Food nourishes and sustain life. It is life that is the true subject of Reichl's books - a life that has known pleasures, heartaches, variety and nourishment through food.

It is important to know how to eat, but the real art is to savour. I believe a person who knows how to savour food might perhaps also learn to savour life. When one is careless and indifferent to what they put into their body, they are also careless and indifferent to how they treat the rest of the world.

Oh, I must mention I also picked up from the library this title: The Magical Chorus, by Solomon Volkov (who wrote St Peterburg). It is a book about the cultural history of Russian, across painting, music, dance, theater, and cinema - covering artistes like Tolstoy, Kandinsky, Malevich, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Diaghilev, Nijinsky, Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, Eisenstein and Tarkovskyto Solzhenitsyn.

I was browsing the first chapter and I learned that when Chekhov died, his coffin was brought from Germany to St Peterburg in a railroad car labelled, 'For Oysters'. That didn't make me want to go read more Chekhov. It did however, remind me of the deep fried oysters in Tender at the Bone and the oyster po'boy I once told myself I had to try when I travel in New Orleans. Later, while reading Comfort Me with Apples, there was a description of the eating of oysters. I remember the creamy texture of fresh oysters, the way it moves on the tongue, the briny, metallic taste of it, with the tinge of lemon.

It was pleasure indeed.


chrisa511 said...

Tender at the Bone sounds REALLY good! I don't think I've ever read a book about food before aside from a cookbook...isn't that sad? What would you say your favorite food book is? I guess a food memoir?

As far as oysters go...blech! I can't stand them, but here in New Orleans EVERYONE eats them. They're typically served raw on the half shell and people eat them with lemon, horseradish, and cocktail sauce which is a ketchup-y sauce. They're very salty (which I like) and slimy (which I don't) It's not so much the taste that I mind, I just don't like the texture of them. They're not too bad fried, they're just not my favorite seafood. If you get an oyster po boy it's served on french bread with lettuce, tomato, pickle, mayonnaise, and sometimes hot sauce. My dad loves them charbroiled on the halfshell with garlic and butter sauce. We love our seafood down here!! But yeah, we have tons of restaurants down here dedicated to oysters!

Anonymous said...

yes yes--loved your book list (except for the Anthony Bourdain. Haven't read him except for comments attributed to him vegetarians...)

really loved her description of the oyster loaf her mother remembered sharing with friends at boarding school--smuggled up to their rooms by a kitchen maid--'because an oyster loaf was really very large'

darkorpheus said...

Chris I'm still new to the food writing genre, so I can't say I have a favourite one yet. Give me time. :)

Haha. I love the texture of oysters, and all that complicated taste all mixed together. In my non-veg days I eat a lot of them - raw and deep-fried. Just reading your description of the oyster po' boy makes me regret not having been down to New Orleans before turning veg. But, oh well. We deal.

Oyster are great - but they are killers on cholesterol. So, everything in moderate.

Ovidia I have a few friends who love him. I also read his interview in Bookslut where he spoke longingly of Vietnam, and Graham Greene's A Quiet American (which I love) - so he's not a complete dick.

Now I have to go look for that oyster loaf bit. :)