So plentiful are the opportunities for good eating in Santa Barbara that it’s only a matter of time before food becomes critically important to anyone transplanted here. Or perhaps I say that because, after five years in this town, learning about, locating, and acquiring tasty dishes-not to mention consuming them-has risen high, too high, on my own priority list. And that’s leaving aside the whole wine thing. As a foodie, I was predictably thrilled to find four new books on matters culinary waiting for coverage in this month’s Hot Off the Press, including nonfiction on sushi and a novel about soup. If you’re hungry for a new perspective on food, these should make for some satisfying summer reading.
Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love
by Lara Vapnyar
One distinct advantage when writing about food is to come from a culture known for its enjoyment of the stuff. We may think Italians have won the game, but we shouldn’t neglect the Russians. True, borscht may not be as commercially well represented as, say, spaghetti, but that doesn’t mean it comes from a less gastronomically delightful setting. Steeped in the impressive food culture of her homeland, Russian-born novelist Lara Vapnyar shares it with us in Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love. The book marks her return to the short story, the form that, in her first release, There Are Jews in My House, brought her critical acclaim. Each of this compilation’s six pieces deals with a different facet of the Russian immigrant to New York’s relationship with food, be it meatballs, spinach, the aforementioned borscht (in hot and cold varieties), or the broccoli of the title. Fortunately for the reader looking to be immersed in narrative, recipes for each of these dishes are handily provided in a coda.