Aftertaste: A Novel in Five Courses, macarons, flying, and barely passing AP Physics

This, for me, is always a high pressure shopping time of year--not just because of presents (though there's that, too--everyone, this year, is getting a book and a sweet treat, ranging from macarons to the best caramel popcorn on the planet) but also because I know I'll need a book that I am in love with.

Pretty and delicious. Flavors include wonders such as honey lavender, cassis, rose, caramel fleur de sel, creme brulée... 

Why's that? Well. For those of you who, like me, forced your AP Physics teacher to explain how planes work--and because it didn't sound believable, asked again and again--and still remained unconvinced--well. You'll know how I, preparing for a cross-country flight, feel.*

I need an excellent book to take my mind off the seeming impossibility of my safely being 36,000 feet in the air, where even natural creatures of the air (birds, paper airplanes) dare not travel. Strapped to a too-small (and I'm short, so I can only imagine how a normal-sized person feels) seat. Perhaps with small children screaming and kicking. For. Five. Hours.

And I believe I've found it. I'm 96 pages in, but I rather doubt it's going to suddenly drop off in quality.

Enter Aftertaste: A Novel in Five Courses It has all my guilty reading pleasures wrapped up in one delicious package--vivid food descriptions, lines that spotlight meaningful moments in everyday life, delightfully quirky characters, beautiful settings, snappy dialogue--and an incredibly justified, occasionally violent, and seriously pissed off narrator.

It's difficult to find a book that is at once pretty, furious, effective, and elegant--and, while tackling some very serious subjects, the sort of thing that makes one grin inappropriately on the subway. It's also difficult to make the reader have far more fun than the protagonist--but it seems Ms. Mileti has accomplished just that.

The work feels dishy--like A Reliable Wife (also recommended), it feels, at times, like reading a literary, much more believable episode of Jerry Springer.** In the best way possible. And without the referees, because the protagonist manages an impressive attack on her enemy, which lands her--hilariously, in that "I shouldn't be laughing about this, but I can't help it" way--in anger management classes.

The protagonist is a chef who runs a successful, innovative Italian restaurant in the Village. She's flawed, but in a way that is perfectly understandable--and there are not many furious (and eminently lovable) female protagonists out there, so this is new, impressive terrain. Her business partner and co-owner, her soon-to-be-ex husband, has taken up with the seductive (and infuriating) maître d' just months after the birth of her daughter, Chloe. From a beautiful Italian olive oil supplier with lessons on love and life, to a gay man from her past with a thing for butter rolls, to a very clever divorce lawyer, the cast of characters is varied, enjoyable, believable, and--overall--quite wonderful.

So far.

But I like the first 96 pages so much, I had to tell you.

Hope this finds you well and happy, that your holiday season is pleasant and relatively stress-free, and that all of your flights are smooth.
* Then again, I also managed only a C+. Eh. I still got into college.
** Is that show even still on?


Dana Sieders said...

OK, if you have a mild to moderate airplane phobia, I'll happily volunteer hubby to help talk you down/through it. Mr. Southwest Airlines Pilot Guy very much enjoys helping those with a fear of flying.

Seriously! He talked down one of the grad students I work with, and she's a two beer/xanax kind of gal when flying. I understand she only needed one beer last flight ;)

Of course, if a good book is your drug of choice and is effective, then all the better :) The title you discuss sounds great, and when I get through my ever-growing list of to-be-read material, I'll definitely check it out!

Julie Hedlund said...

Wow - what a recommendation! Off to add this to the wishlist! Thanks for sharing.

I feel the same way on a plane, btw. Reading works much better than deep breathing exercises. :-)

Rowenna said...

Never fly with a physicist. Ever. During takeoff, they'll casually look out the window and then look at you and say, nonchalantly, "You know, we don't entirely understand how this works."

Yes, my husband did this to me.

A good book would have made it so much better--I could have bonked him with it and then escaped into it.

Have a merry season of travels and noshing!

Charli Mac said...

I LOVED this book! It made me very hungry while reading...