Book Reviews

The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire
by Gaylord Brewer

The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera
by Naomi Guttman

Cooked
by Michael Pollan

Revenge Baking
by Randon Billings Noble

Biting the Apple
by Jeanie Greensfelder

Best Food Writing 2014
edited by Holly Hughes

Creamy and Crunchy
by Jon Krampner

Biting through the Skin
by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

unrest
by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

Corked
by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto

More...

Boozehound
by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

Tomatoland
by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

Curry
by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

Ratio
by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

Candyfreak
by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

Cakewalk
by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

Gastrology
by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

Eating
by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide

Corked: A Memoir

 

by Kathryn Borel
Grand Central Publishing, February 16, 2010
272 pages
ISBN: 978-0446409506

Review by Melissa Queen

Just this past summer, I was moving from the wine country of the Columbia Valley in Washington to the moonshine territory of southeastern Ohio. My father, insisting a young woman shouldn’t drive across the country alone (never mind I’d backpacked through India for five months independently) would ride along with me. My father is sternly and uncomfortably quiet; I am exhaustingly chatty. This is a cause and effect relationship. Thank goodness for MP3 players, audiobooks, and warm-hearted waitresses in truck-stop diners. These things, more so than AAA coverage and spare tires, are the parts of a crucial road-trip survival kit.

In her memoir Corked, Borel introduces us to her charming French father Phillippe, a wine aficionado, and to the fabulous time they have traveling together tasting wines in France. “Problems are for those who lack champagne,” she writes.

Given the long stretches of grass plains, corn fields, and tedious silences I endured on my road trip with my father in the passenger seat, I was wary as I began Borel’s memoir of the overt displays of paternal affection and French nicknames. But within the first ten pages my suspicions that the champagne was about to run dry were confirmed. The choreography of the endearing father-daughter dance quickly falls apart, and we see the strained relationship both Borel and her father have tried for years to mask with wit and charm.

As a novice wine taster, Borel wants to build a shared language with her father, to learn to taste what her father tastes in wine:

I wanted my father to ask me the same questions so that I could think harder and try harder and give him truthful responses. I wished I could tell him that I was afraid to drive and that I hadn’t tasted any minerals in that Riesling. And that I was afraid of no higher common language emerging from our special trip.

We follow the thread Borel weaves between the narrative of the tasting trip and the memories of her past. In the wake of her father’s silences, she carries the heavy burden of driving not only the car, but also the one-sided conversations inside it, at the hotels, and over dinner and wine. In these long stretches of his silence, her mind wanders just far enough away from the wine trip into her memories of trauma and troubled relationships. On the page, some of these transitions are more rough than others, but given a bit of time and patience, Borel joins the fragments together with careful seams. She moves between past and present, the way dinner conversation often does, especially when enabled by several glasses of wine. As her readers, we are invited and welcomed to share the table with Borel and her father, like fellow-traveling strangers with whom she can make small talk to save herself from the lonely silences of long trips.

When it comes to her relationships with men, Borel, is both cursed and blessed with a great dad who she expects no other guy to be able to live up to. The great dad who teaches her to savor wines is always in the background of each of her relationships, always in the next room during her late night drunk phone calls home to her indecisive-about-being-an-ex ex-boyfriend. For Borel, her journey to developing a palate is more about earning the understanding and the approval of her loving but complicated father while reconciling her own complicated emotions. She approaches the experience of wine tasting with a humility that reminds all wine lovers, amateurs and aficionados alike, that we must first learn to taste and experience good wine on our palettes before we can learn to speak the language that describes it.

Along the long drive from Washington to Ohio, my father and I stopped for a night in Malta, a small town in Montana along Highway 2. Malta didn’t have any bars, but they did have a VFW across the street from our motel. My father didn’t serve in the military, but he figured no one in this town besides me knew this, so it would be perfectly fine to go in and have a drink. As he sat down at the bar, the bartender turned to him and asked, “Are you from around here?”

“You know the answer to that,” my father replied, with a chuckle. The bartender laughed too, then asked him what he’d be having. Strangers will come to sit at a bar, to taste wine at a vineyard, and have no difficulty striking up conversation. Strangers can accept and appreciate the mystery in other strangers. Unless of course those strangers are not only strangers to one another, but also fathers to their daughters and daughters to their fathers.

 

August 2012