by Julia Buckley
I once had a part-time job which involved reading restaurant menus from all over the country and highlighting new dishes; my employer was creating a restaurant menu website and needed to update it constantly.
The job paid fairly well and I could work my own hours (I had a baby at home), so I was thrilled to get it. After a while, though, it became psychologically painful. Each day I had to read descriptions of delicious food written by people who had probably majored in creative writing in college. The entrees had names like "Macadamia Nut Encrusted Sea Bass with Mango Cream Sauce" and "Goat-Cheese Encrusted Lamb with Fresh Mountain Herbs." Everything was "encrusted" with something else, and it always sounded delicious.
The desserts were even more spectacular. Things like "Hazelnut Chocolate Praline Cake with Chocolate Drizzles and Raspberry Glaze." These menus were a tribute to the power of words. I always left hungry.
I was reminded of the great writers--usually mystery writers--who write so well about food that I have to stop reading and make a snack. Mary Stewart did this so well that I don't think I've found her equal. In Nine Coaches Waiting, she writes about a midnight snack shared between three people and it's one of the loveliest descriptions I've ever read. She does the same in Madam, Will You Talk?
Robert B. Parker wrote some food scenes that had my husband setting down the book and heading for the kitchen to forage. That Spenser does love to cook, and sometimes I think my husband pretends he's Spenser.
Who else writes food well enough to make you drool? Which mysteries made you hungry? And what's the most delicious thing in the world?
I vote for the chocolate cake I ate at an Italian Restaurant called Marros when my husband and I were on our honeymoon back in 1988. I've tried to find a cake that delicious ever since, and I haven't. Are taste and happy memories entwined? Or is some food just that good? :)