Book Reviews

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

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

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

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


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

by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

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

by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

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

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

by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

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

The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera


by Naomi Guttman
Brick Books , 2015
112 pages
ISBN: 9781771313513

Review by Becca J.R. Lachman

My mother told me never to marry a fellow musician; this is one of her mantras I’m very glad I disobeyed. I know now why she gave me this warning—at least one person in a couple having a steady job is never a bad thing. And two performers’ egos under one roof? Sometimes tricky indeed. But when I look back on the courtship with my now life partner, I can almost feel again that rediscovery of an intoxicating passion for making music—mostly through watching him play piano and percussion for a modern dance class, in the mixed CDs we meticulously created for each other, or in the mini concerts we performed for an audience of one in practice rooms at the college where we worked.

In Naomi Guttman’s newest book of poems, a contemporary version of a mythological Greek love match is colorfully brought to life through Donny (Dionysus), a Canadian opera director, amateur chef, and musician and Ari (Ariadne), a fabrics and printmaking artist consumed by her growing concern for humanity’s role in climate change. They are two artists bound by their drive to create, but also by the daily expectations and to-do lists of marriage—and by the sons they have made together. In The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera, we get a taste of the couple’s early and dizzying love, but we are mostly witness to a seasoned marriage making more dissonance than harmony, a marriage in quiet crisis.

In the book’s prologue, we are introduced to the role food will play in the couple’s evolving relationship. Donny creates tempting, elaborate dishes with the gusto of an opera itself; this is how he first wins over his wife, and this is how he attempts to bring her fully back to him throughout the collection. In “Early Music,” Donny offers such an invitation-feast:

In tall frosted glasses he served cantaloupe
                      crushed with ice and lime, red beans and quinoa
on earthen plates. Dampness entered, settled
           like the children they didn’t yet know.
On the swept wood floor she lay her braid undone—
                                 Bach’s inventions catching in her hair.

Just as Guttman reinvents the story of Dionysus and Ariadne, she also reinvents the way their story’s told through poetic form and music. The novella-in-verse is divided into acts, mostly named for the seasons but interrupted by a section titled “Interludes.” She gives us lyric and prose poems in the form and spirit of artist statements, fugues, sonatas, and succulent, secular lovefeasts.

In my own love story, what secured my heart was homemade twice-baked mashed potato and bacon pizza. When my husband wants to calm me down or make a romantic gesture, he still makes me comfort food. While the book’s masterful language about food as a metaphor for love and identity are also enough of a reason to keep reading, so too is the invitation (and in my case, the need) to revisit the original Greek storylines to fully appreciate Guttman’s adaptations.

I also don’t know that I’ve ever finished a poetry collection and wished it would become an HBO television series—that is, before reading this one. These characters are vivid and unpredictable, achingly human yet trying their best to lift themselves out of the muck of mortality. In Guttman’s poems, even the gods have ailing parents, estranged siblings, and rebellious pre-teens who won’t practice for music lessons (“...Orpheus didn’t have Xbox, / rollerblades, a soccer ball...” Ari says in “Theories of Play”). And in a world of temptation, loss, and destruction, even the gods have to find a way back to each other.