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I received this as a Christmas present from my mum, and I have to admit I snobbishly didn't read it for several years. In fact it was carted around in a couple of house moves unread (I just can't throw a book away) and was finally about to give it to Oxfam when I was seduced into reading a few pages.
It was the shiny cover that did it. The book itself had a lovely feel to this bibliophile that made me want to pick it up.
And what a surprise. Yes, it is a chick lit novel essentially, but it's depiction of life in Italy feels very authentic. Having lived in Italy and having an Italian partner, I'm quite interested in depictions of Italy and find most of them don't quite convey it to me. I find the emphasis on gelati and scooters rather dull and cliched.
Somehow, The Food of Love manages to convey the pleasures of food and life in Italy without being sickly sweet. You know early on that the writer is very familiar with the country, and his descriptions of meals and everyday moments took me back to my time there. Even the dialogue between the male characters feels real.
Capella manages not to overindulge stereotypes. One of the male characters is not a confident Latin lover. Not all the restaurants mentioned are cosy family-run trattorias.
The characters are not quite so deft. The female protagonist, Laura, is irritatingly naive and easily pursuaded. Other women in the novel fulfill predictable roles and I have to say the female characters are more stereotypical than the men.
The plot is also fairly contrived, but I can forgive that as the book never set out to be more than a romantic novel. It manages that well.
What did annoy rather, and increasingly, was the intensity of Bruno's culinary gift and the effect it has on Laura. This became farcical after a while, and detracted from the story. It was laughable, where much of the rest is quite credible.
There's more to the Food of Love than the average chick lit offering, then. Read it for a charming, if not highly original, romance. But really enjoy it for its taster of the simple joys of living in Italy. That's the real stand-out aspect of this novel.
When someone first reccommended I read this, as a bloke I turned my nose up ! Why on earth, I thought, would I want to read what is so obviously a chick book? Finally persuaded by the apparent descriptions of Rome which I visited last year on honeymoon and the lush details of the cooking involved in the novel (I work as a chef so have a passion for food), finally I decided to give this book a go as so many people I trust were saying how good it was.
My friend, Sarah, says this is a very girly book and to some extent this is true. But for anyone who has visited Rome, the locations mentioned in the book will surely spirit you back there and bring back fond memories with every page as they did for me. The exquisite descriptions of food too arte very detailed and imaginative - so much so that, for a chef, I was able to taste and savour every flavour in my mind. The story- well the story is what you would expect , lovey-dovey, romantic twaddle of the sort that you have probably seen and read a thousand times before- it shouldn't work but, as a complete novel, somehow it does...
Tommasso is a local boy who sleeps with as many foreign tourists as their pictures will fit on the inside door of his cupboard. He comes across Laura, an american student, and overhears her phone conversation with a friend whereby she says she only wants to sleep with someone passionate about food after her friend tells her this is matched in the bedroom (no comment) !!
After bumping into her in a deli and giving her food advice, Tommaso, a waiter, comes up with a plan and tells her first that he is a chef and secondly that he will cook for her an amazing meal- the like of which she has never tasted before. The snag- Tommasso cannnot cook but his friend, Bruno, is a highly accomplished chef at a top Italian restaurant.
Convincing Bruno to cook for him and passing the food over as his own ,Tommasso manages to woo Laura and win her heart and her passion- but problems arise when Bruno realises he is in love with her the way his good friend never will be and so a classic love triangle is formed.
Thus follows, as others have said before me, a classic reworking of Cyrano de Bergerac and like I said with the beautiful locations and the mouth-watering descriptions of food, Cappella manages to pull off a neat master stroke of writing a book even foodie blokes such as myself can enjoy. The ending when it comes is a bit dissappointing being too neat and tidy to be truly realistic but overall the book proves itself to be a cracking read and not actually too girly at all.
This is one of those rare achievements- a book with something for almost anyone and is very short so will not take you too long to read. If you are going on holiday with the missus, take this along as a holiday read- if you don't like it you can always pass it on to her as I am fairly confident most girls will love the romantic aspect of it and the way Laura takes control at one stage of her sexuality as she finds herself getting more and more turned on by the rich foods she is enjoying.
Altogether a very entertaining read....
Like Wayne Rooney (a five book deal the mind boggles! He cant string a sentence together without a liberal sprinkling of Erm
yknow!), Jamie Oliver is not someone whose opinion I would seek out on works of literature. So it will come as no surprise that it was not his words of recommendation on the cover of Anthony Capellas The Food of love which persuaded me to purchase a copy. Whatever it was, the book sat for some time in a teeteringly dangerous skyscraper of books and was finally selected as the antidote to some rather foul weather that left me wanting a bit of escapism.
The Food of Love is a modern re-working of an old classic the Cyrano de Bergerac story you may remember this story being used in the Steve Martin movie Roxanne. The premise is this - a young man enlists the help of a friend to win the heart of a young lady unaware that his friend is in love with her too. Out of loyalty the friend agrees to help, keeping his own feelings a secret and, as we know, the course of true love, etc, etc .
Laura Patterson is a young American woman studying art history in Rome. When Tommaso Massi spots her he decides that she will become the latest in a string of foreign tourists he has bedded. He persuades his friend Bruno, a chef, to cook a dinner for Laura that he can pass off as his own work. While shopping for the meal, Bruno meets an American by whom he is captivated but, believing he will be unsuccessful, he doesnt pursue her. Hiding in Tommasos kitchen, preparing the meal, he recognizes Lauras voice as the woman he spoke to in the market earlier that day. Bruno decided that even if he cant have Laura for himself, he will devote himself to creating the sort of food he thinks such a beautiful woman deserves.
Of course, Brunos cooking does the trick; the more sumptuous and sensual the food, the more Laura falls in love with Tommaso. Tommaso, though, isnt used to having a steady girlfriend and starts to feel restless. When he cruelly dumps Laura, Bruno gets his chance .
The setting of Rome for this story is perfect and Anthony Capella really makes the most of it. Its also a clever move to make the heroine and outside so that it offers a way of the reading learning about Italian cuisine and culture as Laura learns. People who love Italy will love this book the descriptions of the narrow lanes of Travastere, the working class district in which Tommaso and Bruno live, the food markets, the high-class restaurant in which Bruno works all are highly evocative of Italy.
The author cleverly uses excerpts from Marcella Hazans The Essentials of Italian Cookery at the beginning of each chapter which reflect what is about to follow and this is echoed in the information imparted by the characters about the nature and style of Italian cooking. Italians take great pride in their cuisine and know from childhood how to combine foods, the order in which foods should be eaten and the type of pasta to be served with any named sauce. Furthermore, these rules can change imperceptibly from region to region and the way rabbit is prepared in Tuscany may be thought of as wholly unsuitable in Puglia. These rules and tastes are described throughout the book.
The simplistic story, its setting and the fairytale-like way in which casting a spell with food is used as a way of winning someones love reminded me of Lily Priors La Cucina. The writer has brought in modern features such as text messaging and e-mailing but there is still a feel for a time gone by. The idea, too, that men would behave in such a way towards women is, while not completely unbelievable, is perhaps stretching the imagination of women used to British men. It is telling that this book is written by a man; the female characters let themselves be manipulated by the men and not only through the medium of food although this is a significant factor. Again, it is reminiscent of a fairytale in that it is the men who do the wooing. We might have elements of modern technology but things in this world are still done the old-fashioned way. I do not think that a female writer would have allowed her leading ladies to be quite so gullible.
Overall the characters are credible if a little stereotypical. It is just as well that the story has some unexpected twists and turns to combat the predictability. It is hard to believe that Bruno would do and say nothing and help his friend win Lauras heart the premise on which the whole story is based but some attractive and evocative writing distracts you from that less than satisfying proposition.
It may be set in the present day but this is sheer escapism. I am not normally one for romantic fiction but Anthony Capella has carried this off so well that I found myself quickly engaged and enthralled until the very end. In fact it wasnt until I came to think about writing this that I identified the book as a romance. It comes with my recommendation that this is a must-read for romantics, lovers of food and lovers of things Italian. And Jamie Oliver, if youre reading this .. youve gone up in my estimation!
Published by Time Warner Books
£6.99 but check out e-retailers for offers
There were quite a few stickers and recommendations on the front of the book. Richard & Judys summertime read 2005 said the first, but Im not impressed by daytime television. A fantastic story, you can almost taste the wonderful Italian food. said Jamie Oliver, but that didnt impress me either. Before you act on a recommendation youve got to respect the person who makes it. Then there was the bookshops 3 for 2sticker. That convinced me I neednt be quite so snobbish about my reading material.
Its another reworking of the classic Cyrano de Bergerac story: boy meets girl and asks his friend to help him win her heart. All goes well until the friend falls for the girl too. Laura Patterson is studying art history in Rome. Tired of the type of man shes meeting she decides that shell only date men who can cook. Shes spotted by Tommaso Massi who tells that hes a chef at one of Romes best restaurants despite the fact that hes a lowly waiter. To win Lauras heart he gets his best friend, Bruno, who is a talented chef, to cook for Laura, but Bruno falls in love with Laura too.
This book will appeal to a lot of people. If you like Italy then youll be introduced to the real Rome. The storys set in Trastevere, a working-class suburb of Rome, and youll get to know the bar where the owner is constantly adapting his Gaggia coffee machine with any car parts he can collect, in the hope of making the perfect cup of coffee. Youll visit the food market at Mercato di San Cosimato, where Bruno buys the food for the meals he cooks for Laura. Youll become familiar with the side streets and alleyways. Theres a trip to the beach and, later in the book, some marvellously evocative descriptions of the countryside in Le Marche.
If Italian food is your thing, then this book was written for you. You might even find it better than a lot of recipe books. The first part of the book is about Roman food, but its not the food the tourist gets. Its the food Italians cook for themselves and you hear about it in detail. The story is divided up into courses with each one being introduced by an excerpt from Marcella Hazans The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, which sets the scene for the chapters to follow. The peasant food contrasts sharply with the overworked dishes which Bruno prepares in Romes top restaurant, but what I found most interesting was the way that the food in the countryside of Northern Italy differed from that of Rome. Beware though if there are some foods that you dont like: I felt rather ill when offal was being described.
If youre a romantic its a good story. Given the comparison to Cyrano de Bergerac (which the author himself makes) its a bit predictable in places, but there are some neat twists and turns which I didnt expect. The sticking point for me with most Cyrano reworkings is that I can never see a compelling reason why the friend would help someone else to win the heart of the girl he loves. Capella manages this in such a way that I never thought Bruno could have done anything else. I thought the final part of the book was the weakest, although it did contain some good recipes. The author has a splendid ear for dialogue too. Its frequently crude, but never gratuitously so. I wouldnt recommend that you use some of the phrases should you be visiting Italy!
The characters of Bruno and Tommaso came across well. I thought I would dislike Tommaso, the womanising wide boy, but I warmed to him. The messes he got himself into were of his own making but I still wanted everything to work out for him. Bruno was superb: Capella captures him perfectly. Hes reticent, lacks confidence other than when in the kitchen and is totally loyal to his friends. I was less certain about Laura, who seemed two-dimensional and shallow. Other women in the story suffered similarly theres a sure touch with the men, but not the women.
If you think it might be your sort of book you can download the first two chapters at http://www.thefoodoflove.com/download_an_extract.htm - you might be missing a treat if you dont!
Paperback 320 pages (February 28, 2005)
Publisher: Time Warner Paperbacks
Price: £6.99, but available on Amazon for £3.99 in December 2005
Laura Patterson is an American exchange student in Rome who, fed up with being inexpertly groped by her young Italian beaus, decides there's only one sure-fire way to find a sensual man: date a chef. Then she meets Tomasso, who's handsome, young - and cooks in the exclusive Templi restaurant. Perfect. Except, unbeknownst to Laura, Tomasso is in fact only a waiter at Templi - it's his shy friend Bruno who is the chef. But Tomasso is the one who knows how to get the girls, and when Laura comes to dinner he persuades Bruno to help him with the charade. It works: the meal is a sensual feast, Laura is utterly seduced and Tomasso falls in lust. But it is Bruno, the real chef who has secretly prepared every dish Laura has eaten, who falls deeply and unrequitedly in love. A delicious tale of Cyrano de Bergerac-style culinary seduction, but with sensual recipes instead of love poems.