Food and love–totally my thing.

Not in the kinky-hot-fudge-body-paint kind of way, but in the food-as-metaphor kind of way. A former professor of mine told me he wished I wrote about everything the way I do food; I said, can’t you tell that when I describe that crispy catfish salad I am writing about everything? (He couldn’t.)

Anyway, when I saw the title of Lara Vapnyar’s new collection, I had to buy it. Also, I remembered reading two of her anthologized stories, both of which I liked. But, I did worry that the premise of the book–stories in which food is central to the action, followed by recipes for said food–might be gimmicky.

Were my worries justified?

Sort of. The recipes, though cute, were unnecessary. They seemed more like a publisher’s idea than Lara Vapnyar’s; I wondered if they were there because the collection was so short, just a small handful of brief, sweet/sad stories. Food was integral to each one: meatballs aging ESL students made to entice a fellow elderly immigrant, borscht a prostitute served to comfort, and connect with, a reluctant client. It existed naturally alongside the other elements of the story–character, place, etc. So pulling it out into the recipes–separating it from the text–seemed unnatural. It took the book to a perhaps unintentionally post-modern place. Rather than leaving me with the images she created, Vapnyar ended up leaving me with the image of her creating those images instead.