‘Tell me where you eat. what you eat, and at what time you eat, and I will tell you who you are.’ This is the motto of Anka Muhlstein’s erudite and witty book about the ways food and the art of the table feature in Honoré de Balzac’s writing.
It is not a coincidence that Balzac was the first in French literature to tackle this appetizing topic. Before the French Revolution, a traveller in France was apt to find local food scarce, tasteless and of dubious appearance. Restaurants did not even exist! Just as the art of the table became a centrepiece of French mores, Balzac used it as a connecting thread in his novels, showing how food can evoke character, atmosphere, class and social pretensions. Full of insights, Balzac’s Omelette invites you to taste anew French literature and cuisine.
Every year for the 30 they have been married, Louis Begley and Anka Mulhstein spend long, enjoyable months in Venice. They write and live there and, over the decades, La Serenissima has become their second home. The owners of their favourite restaurants have become their friends and they share the lives of the locals, far off the beaten tourist tracks, as Mulhstein describes so very charmingly in this book. Louis Begley tells the story of how he fell in love in and with Venice. He is not alone, as his brilliant literary essay on the city’s place in world literature demonstrates: Henry James, Marcel Proust and Thomas Mann are only some of his illustrious predecessors. Mulhstein and Begley’s Venice is a very private view of a place, which will forever inspire dreams of love and passion.