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The Food of Love - Anthony Capella
Member Name: SueMagee
The Food of Love - Anthony Capella
Advantages: A modern re-working of the Cyrano de Bergerac story.
Disadvantages: The men come across more vividly than the women.
There were quite a few stickers and recommendations on the front of the book. “Richard & Judy’s summertime read 2005” said the first, but I’m not impressed by daytime television. “A fantastic story, you can almost taste the wonderful Italian food.” said Jamie Oliver, but that didn’t impress me either. Before you act on a recommendation you’ve got to respect the person who makes it. Then there was the bookshop’s “3 for 2”sticker. That convinced me I needn’t be quite so snobbish about my reading material.
It’s 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 she’s meeting she decides that she’ll only date men who can cook. She’s spotted by Tommaso Massi who tells that he’s a chef at one of Rome’s best restaurants despite the fact that he’s a lowly waiter. To win Laura’s 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 you’ll be introduced to the real Rome. The story’s set in Trastevere, a working-class suburb of Rome, and you’ll 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. You’ll visit the food market at Mercato di San Cosimato, where Bruno buys the food for the meals he cooks for Laura. You’ll become familiar with the side streets and alleyways. There’s 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 it’s not the food the tourist gets. It’s 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 Hazan’s 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 Rome’s 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 don’t like: I felt rather ill when offal was being described.
If you’re a romantic it’s a good story. Given the comparison to Cyrano de Bergerac (which the author himself makes) it‘s a bit predictable in places, but there are some neat twists and turns which I didn’t 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. It’s frequently crude, but never gratuitously so. I wouldn’t 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. He’s 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 – there’s 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.h tm - you might be missing a treat if you don’t!
• Paperback 320 pages (February 28, 2005)
• Publisher: Time Warner Paperbacks
• Price: £6.99, but available on Amazon for £3.99 in December 2005
• ISBN: 0751535699
Summary: An enjoyable, light-hearted read.