Friday, October 31, 2008

"The World in My Kitchen"

My reading project is underway. Today I read Colette Rossant's The World in My Kitchen. I enjoyed the first several chapters about the early years of her marriage in New York, and how she discovers the city and its many ethnic cuisines. She describes how she and her husband refurbished an old house in the Italian neighborhood of the city, how she found various jobs and learned to find markets with many types of ingredients and developed ways to cook them. She also made some interesting trips with her husband, especially living in Tanzania. I recall this voice from her earlier autobiography, Apricots on the Nile.

At a certain point, though, the narrative suddenly seems to consist more of name dropping than of experiences. Her cooking classes are a big success, and everyone wants to meet her and work with her. She meets every famous food authority from Calvin Trillin to Alice Waters. I don't doubt the truth of what she says, these later chapters just are not as interesting as earlier chapters, nor is the material about her success as interestingly presented as the material about her learning process.

At the end are several chapters about adventurous voyages to exotic places -- they seem like magazine set-pieces. Japan, China, the Australian Outback. There's something a bit too egotistical about these pieces. They just don't have the charm of the early chapters.

So the book is about half good.

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