Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A Book Like Dinner

National Bestseller, Jacques Pepin, "The Apprentice, My Life in The Kitchen"
Food/Memoir/0504/6-89011 $14

photographs of the cover of Jacques Pepin's book, The Apprentice

I am not going to describe The Apprentice as a feast of anecdotes [People] or delicious [New York Times]. I might go some way, however, in agreeing with GQ who noted that the book goes down like a feast. Indeed. A feast that I struggled to finish. Reading The Apprentice was something like eating a large 3-course dinner.

Just as I adore being presented with a first course of exotic appetizers, I started out loving this book. Interesting lttle bites of this and that. As I followed Pepin from childhood to man, through the French countryside and then Paris, I just couldn't get enough. Each page was a new flavour, a window on a different experience, a harkening back to the times when everything seemed so simple and fresh. Starters are always my favourite part of any dinner, I often have two and skip the main course. Oh, that I could have read the French part of the book again and again, with different tales from Pepin's young life on each sitting.

By the time Pepin arrived in America, I had moved on to my main course. Everthing was suddenly oversized and heavy. The magic of Pepin's appeal dimminished once he was transplanted in to the more familiar surrounds of the modern day US. The small details, the little flourishes, the exuberence that had marked the opening chapters did not seem to follow through with Pepin to the next stage of his life. It was suddenly all too much for me. My input slowed down and just like when I eat a large dinner, I was struggling to finish the main section of the book. After reading the French portion in mere weeks, the rest of the book was to last me almost three months.

Dessert suggests that the end of a meal is getting closer, but by this time I was so full, I was almost unable to reach the end. I was starting nod off each night, after swallowing no more than just a few words. The only sweet note was that the ordeal was nearly over, I just had to gulp down a few more pages of Pepin's words, before I could declare the book finished and return it, at last, to its patient owner.
A Book Like Dinner


  • At 6/4/05 08:32, Blogger Alice said…

    I love the analogy! I feel the same way about J. Steingarten's The Man Who Ate Everything - that was also a 3 course meal that was just too much...

  • At 6/4/05 09:47, Blogger Estelle said…

    Nice review! If you have not read it yet, I would highly recomment Cooking for Mr. Latte. It's a great read AND the recipes are great. I keep reading the chapters over and over again.

  • At 6/4/05 18:03, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I adored this book. But I adore Jacques. I thought his voice was present throughtout the writing.The recipes at the end of chapters are a great personal evocation. For me the book displayed a nice parallel between an individual's awakening into manhood with American's culinary awakening. I just love him. So maybe that's why I enjoyed it so much.



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