Monday, December 15, 2014

A Bowl of Olives: On Food and Memory

Title:  A Bowl of Olives:  On Food and Memory
Author:  Sara Midda
Publication Information:  Workman Publishing Company. 2014. 128 pages.
ISBN:  0761145265 / 978-0761145264

Book Source:  I received this book through a publisher's giveaway free of cost in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Shelf Awareness.

Favorite Quote:  "Certain foods are forever linked with particular places and times - memorable meals with special people."

A Bowl of Olives:  On Food and Memory is a little gift book with charming artwork. The author Sara Midda is an artist, who has lived in the South of France and currently lives in West Essex, England.

The dust jacket of the book reads, "This work of pure enchantment celebrates all things food and cooking .... Its watercolor paintings shine like jewels ... it is a book layered with memories and impressions, and throughout, recipes..."

The first element of the book description is "all things food and cooking." The table of contents is an eclectic collection of food related topics. The sections range from food markets to eggs, from table settings to food wishes, and from food packaging to olives. The sections vary in the scope of topics. One section talks about specifically eggs while another cover the broad spectrum of food memories. Each section drifts between lists, descriptions, notes, and artwork related to the topic without really a flow or organization within the topic.

The artwork itself is lovely, and the book includes a lot of artwork. However, the book is little - about 5 x 7 inches in hardcover. Most of the pages contain multiple individual images, making each one even smaller than the size of the book indicates. Some pages have only a few images, but some have as many as 10-20 individual images. As a result, the artwork is really, really small - beautiful but small. At times, I found myself reaching for a magnifying class to more clearly see what details there might be.

As to the layering of "memories and impressions," many sections are somewhat like lists. The individual items on a list may or may not trigger a memory for the reader. The author does not explain her memories; No stories underlie the lists and descriptions. For examples, the food memories include:

  • Italy:  "in wine bars along the back streets of Venice, chicchetti of rice balls, artichoke hearts cooked in olive oil, garlic, parsley and lemon juice."
  • Morocco: "grilled sardines - eating them in the harbor at Essaouira"
  • France:  "scents - figs, wood smoke, herbs, coffee, bread baking, olive oil, garlic."

The words simply do not bring the memory to life. Food should appeal to all the senses, and this book does not elicit that delight. The few recipes included are fairly basic ones. As this book will likely appeal to "foodies," the recipes (like roasted beets and apple jelly) are likely ones they are already familiar with.

Functionally, the book is difficult to read. The font is very linear and italic in appearance. The font size is sometimes really small like the artwork. On certain pages, the font and color of print resembles that of a notebook hurriedly written. The small size of print and artwork gives some of the pages a cluttered appearance. Perhaps, that goes with the artistic aesthetic of the book, but it becomes very challenging to read.

At the end of the day, this book is really a work of art - more about the illustrations than the content. The individual illustrations are lovely; I just wish I could have seen them in a cleaner and larger environment so as to appreciate each and every one.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment