“Lawrence Durrell,’ I said wondering if I as pronouncing the name right, ‘said that olives had a taste as old as cold water.’ I rolled the musty pit around in my mouth, thinking that if I could come up with just one description as good I could call myself a writer.” (Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl)
Knowing that the library would be out of my top five picks this week – it always is in the summer – I used some of my fancy Reader’s Advisory skills to find myself a book they just might have. Being in a sort of lazy, summery mood I recollected Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life and decided that something similar would fit just right. NoveList recommended a host of ‘read-alikes’, including the flashy and not at all Wizenbergy Anthony Bourdain. I settled for Ruth Reichl, an author that had already been recommended to me by an authoritative source.
When I thought that I wanted to read a food memoir, I wasn’t really banking on perusing the exact same book I’d already read. I don’t know if it’s the format (autobiographical story followed by unique recipe), but A Homemade Life and Tender at the Bone were eerily similar. When you read a good book, you don’t necessarily want to go back and start it over again – you need a little time to forget it first. The situation calls for something akin, a book with the same location or pace, but just different enough to keep you questioning; this is what electronic RA databases like NoveList don’t understand. There is a subtlety to recommending a book that the ‘read-alike’ algorithm can’t capture. Wizenberg’s book should be paired with another strong female autobiography or some serious non-memoir food writing. I have actually never gotten a satisfying NoveList recommendation: what have your experiences been with it?
Beverage: Iced coffee – when Ruth is going through her hippy phase, throwing out the coffee for conscientious reasons is where she, rightly, draws the line.
Reminds me of: Gastronomical Me by M.F.K Fisher and, as I said, Molly Wizenberg. I would only read these three together, however, if you were looking to see how food and foodies have changed through several successive generations. Strangely enough, out of the three I actually prefer the most recent – usually I side with the older books and principles.