cooktart“It was all about absorption, Jasmine thought.  In cooking as in life, the more you absorbed of life and the world and flavors around you, the richer you would be.  The better tasting you would be philosophically.” – p 127

If you’ve read this site for a lengthy period of time (is there anyone out there other than my husband who falls into this category?)  you’ll know that when I’m reading something considered “heavy”  (for example “War and Peace”) I like to temper it with something a bit lighter along the way.  This usually falls in the category of chick lit.  I picked up this book at the library mostly because I liked the title and the cover – which is horrendous of me as a reader, I know, but still that’s what happened.

I got so much more than I anticipated.  This book is a dark food comedy which not only makes fun of every aspect of the food writing and dietary genre but embraces it at the same time.  I did not expect the audacity of the characters I encountered, nor their reactions to the situations placed before them. And the ending is so ridiculously hilarious, I found myself laughing out loud.

Here’s the dish – Jasmine is a food author, no, a food-worshipper.  She loves every aspect of food, her life revolving around three things: succulent gourmet meals, her husband, and her daughter.  Jasmine plans out every dish with plenty of testing, tasting, and reveling.  She writes recipe books that don’t apologize for their fat content, and is very dismayed with the trend towards skimpy eating she finds her cookbook author peers following.  Her husband has become distant, and her daughter is anorexic and desperate to lose her virginity to the most popular boy in school.  And Jasmine’s publisher is threatening to cut her book contracts if she doesn’t cut the calories in her recipes.  Jasmine, however, is so wrapped up in her own culinary problems that she doesn’t see that her family is drifting apart until Tina comes onto the scene.  Tina is one of her husband’s drama students, and desperate to steal Daniel (Jasmine’s husband) away from his wife.  She has very strict ideas about what sorts of things one should and shouldn’t consume and is taking Daniel away from Jasmine one wheatgrass smoothie at a time.

This author is a hardcore pro when it comes to describing her food in prose, making even the most unappetizing sound somewhat appealing.  Your stomach will be growling before you’ve finished the first few chapters.  Not only does the author make a great, if somewhat sarcastic, case for eating what you like (just in moderation) but she makes it nearly impossible not to crave whatever she’s describing.  I’ll highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys food, dark comedy, chick lit, or any comination of those, but I’ll give the recommendation with a warning.  Don’t read this book on an empty stomach.

“How to Cook a Tart” was written by Nina Killham and published in 2003.