Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Food of Love by Anthony Capella

SUMMARY (by the publisher): In Anthony Capella’s delicious debut novel, Laura, a twenty-something American, is on her first trip to Italy. She’s completely enamoured of the art, beauty, and, of course, food that Rome has to offer. Soon she’s enamoured of the handsome and charming Tommaso, who tells her he’s a chef at the famed Templi restaurant and begins to woo her with his gastronomic creations. But Tommaso hasn't been entirely truthful - he’s really just a waiter. The master chef behind the tantalizing meals is Tommaso’s talented but shy friend Bruno, who loves Laura from afar.

MY OPINION:

The Food of Love contains everything you need for relaxation, yet it is not cheap. It seems Capella has figured out a perfect recipe for a light but satisfying meal. You take one American, a love triangle, plenty of good Italian food, some humorous cross-cultural misunderstandings, mix it all together, spice it up with some stereotypes, and it is bound to be delicious. But Capella makes it a little different from what one would expect.

To start with, Laura is not a typical American girl. Instead of being just a wide-eyed, nagging tourist, she is open to experience another culture to full extent, unlike her fellow students and professors who prefer to stay safely behind the fences of the way of life they are accustomed to. Her willingness for exploration and adventurous spirit also make her vulnerable, especially since she is somewhat naïve. So, she learns all the wrong phrases to say to a boy, which is a source for a good laughter many times throughout the book.

Tomasso is a typical Italian playboy who uses foreign girls for short affairs. When meeting Laura, he genuinely believes she might change that. But he quickly starts making mistakes. Sensing his charm and looks will not be enough to seduce Laura, he lies about himself and asks his best friend to help him with his amazing cooking. From that moment lies accumulate over lies, and there is no way out of the labyrinth of deceit to be seen on the horizon.

Bruno is a shy, self-conscious man with really bad self-image, although or exactly because he is only an average-looking Italian. Therefore, he does not dare to approach Laura. He is satisfied by loving her from afar and making her happy with his delicious meals. Of, course, Tomasso’s and Bruno’s fraud eventually grows out of proportions and falls apart. The lesson of the book is that the truth always gets out.

When the truth unravels and Tomasso leaves Laura, she is appalled and seeks solace and safety in a relationship with her professor and in the comfort of the familiar American ways. Similarly, Bruno escapes to the countryside with a tail between her legs. But, Capella’s characters are not soap-opera characters who could sulk and hold a grudge against one another for ever. They are very much life-like characters. They find strength in their mistakes to improve themselves, to grow, to become better people.

Bruno finds his way back to Tomasso and finds out that his friend, who was always hungry for attention, turned his business ruin into success. Wanting to continue his career, he stumbles upon Laura again. This time his attempt to enchant her with food does not work. A nervous Laura, stripped of her appetite, finds herself liking Bruno just for who he is. And they all lived, perhaps not happily ever after, but with a promising future. That is a real life, too. The best quality of The Food of Love is exactly that it comes very close to what can happen in real life.

Speaking of real life, there is something else very realistic in Capella’s book. The descriptions of the recipes, the cooking, and all the food are detailed, but not boring. Capella’s culinary descriptions are so vivid you can see, smell, and taste everything you read about. This is the cherry on top of an excellent summer dessert.

RECOMMENDATION: When you want something easy, but not trashy, to read, this is the book for you. Warning: Don’t read it when you are hungry!

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