Sunday, 27 November 2011

Cooking the Books: tisane for Harlot's Sauce

Harlot's Sauce: a memoir of food, family, love, loss and Greece, by Patricia Volonakis-Davis, is the current Cook the Books bookclub selection.

Patricia's account of her marriage to a Greek man is really quite something. I couldn't put it down. This, unusually, is not a recommendation. I kept turning the pages waiting for things to get better for her. I held out hope for a while that she wouldn't marry Gregori, although I could see from her name that she'd been married to a Greek at some point. Then I held out hope that the marriage wouldn't last long so she could be happy. No luck. Just when things start to look up, the book ends.

One bit I did find amusing, though, were all Gregori's cousins, because it reminded me of the 1980s "Con the Fruiterer" sketches on Australian TV, where he talks about his daughters Roula, Toula, Soula, Voula, Foula and Agape.

Unusually for a "food memoir" I can't think of a single positive association with food in the book. This is not a book of lavish feasts bringing families together. Constipation from toasted white bread sandwiches on her first trip to Greece, food used to control and manipulate when Patricia and Gregori's families first meet, Gregori's dismay at the story of the puttanesca recipe, Gregori's friend being rude and dismissive over hamburgers, etiquette dances surrounding biscuits at his uncle's name day, Gregori cooking beans every day in protest, criticising her salad making... it is all food as a weapon, lacking joy.

What, then, to cook to represent this book? I thought about making some good Greek food. A delicate and delectable galaktoboureko, a nourishing, cheesy spanakopita, a life-enhancing platter of meze to share with loved ones.

But finally I decided to make a simple tisane. Dried lemon balm and fresh mint, infused in boiling water until fragrant and served with a touch of honey. Good for the digestion, soothing for the soul.

18 comments:

~~louise~~ said...

My son keeps reminding me how I no longer read books like I use to. I "blame" it on blogging but, truth be told, I just can't seem to find something that holds my interest.

Thank goodness for reviews like this! I absolutely adore Greek food however and wouldn't mind a taste one bit. The tisane sounds right up my alley though after three days of gouging my belly could use a rest:)

Thanks for sharing, Foodycat:)

The Cat's Mother said...

love the chillis

Choclette said...

Wise choice - heart warming feast food, just wouldn't be right. I don't think I shall be reading this book.

Got completely confused with your new look - always takes me a while to get used to these things, but I've already taken a liking to those chillies.

Foodycat said...

Louise - I'm finding myself more fidgetty too. It really needs to grab me fast! The tisane is very good, I can recommend it.

Mother - thank you!

Choclette - Still have some work to do on the makeover, but I am liking it so far. Much lighter.

Rachel said...

Digging those chilis in the background. I have mixed feelings about this book too. Will get my post up tomorrow but I'm not entirely sure what to write about.

hungryandfrozen said...

Sounds like a hard read!
Love your new blog layout - very cool :)

Joanne said...

Hmm it sounds like you need somethign soothing after all the anxiety produced by this book! Great choice!

Foodycat said...

Rachel - it certainly was not the book I expected from the title!

Laura - thanks! I've been thinking about it for a while.

Mary said...

I think your choice of recipe to represent the book was excellent.I hope we'll be able to read a sequel
at some point. It sounds like a life in need of more warmth than the Greek sun or hot tea can provide. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Foodycat said...

Joanne - it was a tough read, I can tell you!

Mary - fortunately it sounds like her second marriage is bringing her happiness!

Claudia said...

I did the same thing, kept reading, hoping things would get better, turn more uplifting, share some good food. Ah well, a good tisane is soothing indeed.

Deb in Hawaii said...

It was a bit of a challenge to read and I really wanted more of the promised food from the title tag too.

I love tisanes--so soothing and warming--a good pick for this one.
;-)

Foodycat said...

Claudia - I'm really hoping the next book is a bit more fun.

Deb - I am a huge fan of the tisane. Sometimes even instead of dessert!

Eliotseats said...

This book was a challenge for me too and even more challenging trying to find inspiration for a dish to represent. I think you chose perfectly for this book.

Foodjunkie said...

I felt the same about this book: the minute things get better, it ended!

Foodycat said...

Eliot - thanks!

Jo - maybe there will be a sequel?

DaniD said...

Foodycat, I would love a sequel of this book :) I think it would be great...I also loved your tisane and it looked so beautiful!

Simona said...

Mint always reminds me of Morocco and of the huge bunches of mint that gets used to make their mint tea, which is a great soother.

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