Gourmet Rhapsody is, in short, an ode to food in all its forms. The premise of the book recounts the final days of a renowned French food critic, on his death-bed, craving a certain food that is just on the tip of his tongue. The chapter’s alternate between his voice, the voices of his children, wife, servants and even the pets. It is a beautiful little tribute to food, and its preparation.
Muriel Barbery also wrote one of my absolutely favorite books, The Elegance of the Hedgehog. While Gourmet Rhapsody pales in comparison to the former novel, the book is not without its merits. Barbery’s gift with descriptions brings food to life in a new way, a three-dimensional way, for me at least. I could visualize and sort of smell the food she was describing.
The characters were pretty boring, to be honest. I didn’t really care for any of them, except for the food critic’s wife, who was neglected by her husband and pitied by her children. I liked the maid’s chapter the best, and I didn’t really see the point of the chapter’s told through the cat and dog’s perspective. I did like how all the stories were tied together, and each revolved around food. Food loved, food devoured, and food that was disgusting.
A snippet…the description of whiskey:
To start with, the unfamiliar aroma unsettled me beyond anything I thought possible. Such formidable aggressiveness, such a muscular, abrupt explosion, dry and fruity at the same time, like a charge of adrenaline that has deserted the tissues where it ordinarily resides in order to evaporate upon the surface of the nose, a gaseous concentration of sensorial preicipes…Stunned, I discovered that I liked this blunt whiff of incisive fermentation.
The book is brief, as are each of the 29 chapters. One of the chapters is narrated by Renee, the concierge and one of the primary characters in Elegance of the Hedgehog. This book can be a bit of a disappointment if you’ve read Elegance of the Hedgehog first, but don’t let that deter you. It’s still a good book about the love and search for good food.