Top | Newsletter 2012

Culinate Newsletter June 6

(mailing, James Berry)

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 h1. Dear readers,

 Fans of food-centric literature are often fans of M.F.K. Fisher. Decades after her best-known works were published, we revere her masterful way of writing about food and people. In fact, awhile back on Culinate, we posted an excerpt of Fisher's book The Art of Eating — an anecdote about her family's murderous cook — just to give a taste of her writing; we also excerpted a portion of An Extravagant Hunger, Anne Zimmerman's biography of Fisher.

 But careful readers will notice that writers who aren't exactly known for their prose about food also use descriptions of food and eating to build stories. This week, in her post titled '"The novelist Lois Leveen notes that very thing — that descriptions of food, cooking, and eating give readers a sense of her characters: "Passages that appeal to the sense of taste, and to smell and touch as well, draw readers in. Done well, such passages show more about characters than merely what they’re having for dinner." 

 As I make my way through my current reading — Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks — I've been thinking about this device. In case you don't know the book, it's a nonfictional account of the life and death of the woman whose cells were successfully cultured in the 1950s and have since been used throughout the world for scientific experiments. As the writer worked to portray a person about whom not a lot is known, she gathered details; here's one that jumped out at me: "\[Henrietta\] kept her nails short so bread dough wouldn't stick under them when she kneaded it, but she always painted them a deep red to match her toenails." From just one sentence, a picture of the woman begins to emerge. 

 In books, as in life, food helps define who we are.
 Kim Carlson
 Editorial Director

 P.S. What's your favorite mention of food in fiction? Leave a comment on Lois' essay, and win a copy of her new novel, [%amazonProductLink asin=0062107909 "The Secrets of Mary Bowser"].

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story1id: 377498
story1text: "Give your dog a new treat — one that you make yourself. Laura Grace Weldon offers suggestions."
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story2text: "Lois Leveen uses food to help create believeable fictional characters. Leave a comment on her post; you may win a copy of her new novel." 

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recipe1text: "Alice Medrich's new book, 'Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts,' is full of uncomplicated recipes like this one."
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recipe2text: "We've been enjoying Annie Somerville's recipes; here's a beautiful vegetarian main dish." 

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