Tuesday, May 26, 2009


by Giulia

Urban professional woman muses on why her love affairs went wrong and how the men in her life responded to her passion for cooking.

An author cover quote aptly describes it as "...sauce gone right and love gone wrong", while celebrity chef Mario Batali of Iron Chef fame describes it as "...a foodie's dream version of 'Sex and the City'..".

One of the best examples of wording and cover art capturing interest and complementing one another this reader has ever seen. Brilliant title, not only funny but perfectly conveys content. Scarlet background gives a nod to the tomato sauce implied in the title and one of the colors of the Italian flag (the author is of Italian-American descent). A single noodle is pulled out of a plate of spaghetti to form a heart shape - says all it needs to about interior. Apprentice Writer has never wished more that she knew how to incorporate pictures on her blog!

What Works
The author has a very easy-to-read style, engaging the reader in a flow-of-conversation style retelling of events in her life that slowly and organically draws one in till each new disappointment of the heart feels as though it happened to one of your own dear friends. The picture painted is of a woman who is almost to a fault warm-hearted and generous of spirit; it is not difficult to understand why men are attracted to her. The difficulty, apparently, lay in having those men make a permanent commitment, or else in discerning which men were worthy of her emotional investment in the first place. Giulia longs to establish a home and family; while genuinely happy for her siblings and friends who achieve this goal, she (and the reader) is honestly perplexed why it eludes her.

The book is divided into chapters each devoted to a different man, and peppers them with recipes that were symbolic of the relationship at that time. Beginning with her father, it is fascinating to see how the cooking changes over time. The recipes themselves sound delicious andsimple enough even for beginners to attempt. The funniest part of the whole book is the editorial comments added in the step-by-step directions:

"Pear Cake for Friends with Benefits"
"Ineffectual Eggplant Parmigiana: serves the 2 of you, plus the 3 other people you wish were there to help keep the conversation going."
"Don't overmix; this will make for tough cupcakes and you've suffered enough."
"Spaghetti with Arugula and Pine Nuts: If you want to double this recipe and make it for a boyfriend, that's your problem."

What Doesn't
The author suffers from that snobbish ailment afflicting New Yorkers and Londoners in particular: the belief that the whole reading world ought to understand the significance of specific restaurant-, street-, neighborhood-, etc. names. There is also too much preoccupation about what is hip or not for this reader's taste. But both of these points are relatively minor ones; the rest of the times Apprentice Writer thought 'Oh no!' it was not because of writing issues but life choices the author was about to make, which the reader could tell would end badly.

It is always easier to analyze someone else's life than one's own; for the author to lay her emotional life bare to the world was an act of courage, and the reasoning of how she came to the decision to chronicle it for public consumption was compelling.

Upon first glimpse of the author's youthful and attractive photo image, Apprentice Writer thought "Why is such a young person writing a memoir already?" The answer is: as a constructive approach to figuring out her life and moving forward in an ego-healthy way, perhaps allowing others to learn from her mistakes. If a tiny bit of 'Oh yeah? Watch me!' crept in it can instantly be forgiven, considering the patronizing reaction of her last, novelist boyfriend when she first floated the idea of writing a book:

"Lachlan dismissed my aspiration with typical writerly snobbery; 'Why would anyone want to be a writer?' he snorted, as if the vocation were a sentence he alone was stuck with for the crime of his brilliance."

Despite the repeated disappointments, the author has not become bitter. Her story (and recipes) are offered with a light touch. Her sense of humor and solidly positive outlook on life remain untouched; the reader sincerely hopes that she will soon be able to cook in her happiest manner: for more than one. Till then, she cheerfully goes on:

"Because cooking and eating well are my raison d'etre, I don't stop when there's no one else to feed...I've spent just as much time single as I have as half of a couple, and though I much prefer cooking for two than cooking for one, if one is all I have, I cook for her."


Thomma Lyn said...

Ha! Sounds like a fun read. And I love the title!

Julia Phillips Smith said...

'as if the vocation were a sentence he alone was stuck with for the crime of his brilliance.' - LOL! This sounds wonderful. I think I'd get awfully hungry reading it. But making the reader go 'oh no!' is a great recommendation. If the reader cares that much, the former boyfriend is not as much of an island as he thinks he is.

M. said...

The title really is great.

And there were quite a few really astute observations on human nature - just not, unfortunately in time enough for the author to prevent heartache at the time!