For Ginger's Book Club for September/October, we read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. I actually finished it a while ago but I couldn't figure out what I wanted to say in my review. I agree with others who said that the lack of quotation marks drove me crazy, but that's not a review of a book.
I think this review is hard for me to write because on the one hand, the story kept me reading, but on the other hand, the book left me feeling about as empty as Rose's mother's cooking. I think that I, like Jenn, wasn't connecting with the characters. What I think kept me reading was the fact that I wanted, so badly, to connect with this family and so I kept going to see if that connection would happen. But it just didn't.
I also really wanted to connect with the book because I thought I was going to be able to connect with Rose and what she "tastes" in her food. My favorite sense, by far, is taste. I have very discerning taste buds, so if I say food is good, it really is GOOD. I can tell when the measurements were a little off or that milk was almost too old or that substitution you thought would work just didn't quite cut it. This often makes it difficult to eat food made by others, and it also makes it difficult to prepare food for myself. When cooking for myself, I get so wrapped up in trying to make sure the flavors are balanced so that I'll enjoy it when it's done that I can't enjoy the process. I'm stressed and flustered and trying to make sure the onions don't burn while I'm pouring the spices into the measuring spoon because I bought this stupid container without a removable lid so I can't just SCOOP them...and I think, while it's not quite like the way Rose tasted people's feelings, I can taste that frustration in the food when I'm done. The only food I cook that I truly enjoy is the stuff that I can cook from memory and without measurements. Then I am enjoying the process, probably singing and dancing in the kitchen, and I can taste that enjoyment when I'm done too.
As for others' food, I think I've been spoiled by people who can try a recipe once or twice and then do it from memory, because I can tell when someone has tried to do that but they just don't know what they're doing. I've also been spoiled by people who know how a recipe is supposed to look and taste and know what adjustments to make when it's not. So then when I get food from someone who just threw stuff in willy-nilly and now the alfredo sauce is a little more like warmed up cream with some garlic...it's just disappointing. All of you reading this who have cooked for me -- don't worry, this is not my way of saying your food lets me down. Your food is what has spoiled me so that NOW I feel let down by other food. And this other food is not BAD by any means, it's just more like eating to survive, not eating to enjoy.
My point with all this discussion on food is that my discerning taste buds and my attachment to the enjoyment of food really made me want to connect with Rose in the book. I really wanted her to learn something about food because of her special talent, but instead she just ate factory food since it wouldn't taste like feelings. Only at the end did I start connecting with her, when she finally decided to start visiting restaurants and trying to enjoy food and allowing the feelings to be part of the flavor. And then the book was over and I was left hungry for something more.