A Not So Rhapsodic, Gourmet Rhapsody

 Just finished a little, 156 page, novelette, Gourmet Rhapsody, by Muriel Barbery.  I had read a review of this book last month, which led me to check it out myself.  So, my two cents' worth follows.  Especially as it follows Dinner with Edward, which we did for Cook the Books Club, this provided such a contrast in characters.  One a loving  husband, caring father and warm human being, the other a greedy, self-indulgent, self-absorbed and cold hearted individual, who treats his wife, children and most other people with contempt.  We know from the outset that he's an arrogant douche-bag, so no surprises there.

The book alternates the reminiscences of a renowned food critic, Pierre Arthens, on his death bed, trying to recall a particular flavor from his past, with chapters from the point of view of Pierre's various relatives, acquaintances, etc.  He blatantly  enjoys his power to make or ruin both chefs and restaurants; a man who has spent his life, as Barbery notes, among those erecting "temples to the glory of the goddess Grub."  Definitely an extreme of living to eat, rather than eating to live.  I found the whole thing rather sad, as there are so many in this world who do spend a lifetime seeking pleasure in one form or another, often at the expense of others, dying unregretted, and spiritually bankrupt.

Of course, this was meant as satire, but satire should have more wit, and at least be entertaining or inspiring. Luckily, it was a short book, and happily, her food descriptions were often wonderful, very evocative and sensual.  However there was no real plot.  Well okay, while facing death, this world famous food critic is seeking an elusive, remembered taste from his past.  With just 48 hours to go, he searches his memories of food. In the alternating chapters, we hear from those who know him.  Pierre seems to be almost universally hated.  For many his dying won't be soon enough.  Although Pierre was generally kind to his servants, it was likely with the idea of keeping on good help.

Spoiler alert:  As no real tension was involved, I can probably reveal safely that the elusive taste he sought turns out to be soggy (from being held in a plastic bag), supermarket chouquettes.  Really the least appealing of all the lovely foods on offer in the book.  They should be little, airy doughnut type pastries.  I want to experiment with the good sort when we expect friends over.  Generally I don't bake desserts just for the two of us.

He does rave on (rhapsodize) about roast duck at one point, which is an absolute favorite of mine; thus I will share here a truly stunning little gourmet sandwich, composed of Roast Duck Breast with Pineapple Chutney, onion confit and arugula, on slices of my rustic, fresh-baked bread.  How's that for rhapsodizing?

I've decided to read her other book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, just because everyone seems to think it is much better.  We'll see. This post will be linked over at Deb's Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper (Salads & Sammies) Sundays, at the April Foodies Read and with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend cooking event, all of which sites you can visit for great food and reading ideas.


jama said...

Your duck sandwich looks divine!! My father, especially, would love it. Sounds like this was a strange little book. Hopefully The Elegance of the Hedgehog will be better!

Carole said...

Must have been my mood but Dinner with Edward didn't do it for me.... Have a great week. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

Brona Joy said...

I've had special cups of tea, coffee or chocolate/biscuit/cake to go with a book before, but I've never thought to try out one of the recipes or favourite food of the characters....what a lovely thing to do - you've all inspire me :-)

Wendy Klik said...

Thanks for the review, now I know not to bother.

Rob said...

Sorry if I led you astray with this one! It was a very odd little book. I was able to get some enjoyment out of it, but I can definitely see how many wouldn't.

The roasted duck sandwich looks fantastic, though!

Claudia said...

Not at all Rob, it was an interesting foray into a strange world, and the food descriptions were worth it.

The Candid Cover: YA Book Blogger said...

Amazing food descriptions in a book always captivate me. I might give it a try and see if it is one that I enjoy. Thanks so much for sharing this! :)

Deb in Hawaii said...

Sounds like an interesting little book and of course food descriptions always work for me. Your sandwich looks delicious--thanks for sharing it with Souper Sundays this week. ;-)

Dragonfly Our Familiarium said...

Glad to hear the food were evocative and sensual I love that! too bad it was lacking plot :(
OMG that sandwich Claudia! I was drooling the whole time!

Tina said...

This is one I would try, it sounds off but it's short and not your typical writing style, so yeah.....sound a interesting in a quirky way.
Duck is a meat we can't always find around here but when we do, love it! Good representative meal

ihath said...

Hello Claudia,
If you enjoy foodie fiction then I invite you to check out a novel called "Spoonful Chronicles". It tells the story of a woman determined to unlock the secret to her destiny by remembering everything she has ever eaten.

Info: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N7VI35H