Sustenance & Desire

SUSTENANCE & DESIRE: A Food Lover’s Anthology of Sensuality and Humor

In her 2002 anthology Where Books Fall Open, Bascove (a single-name Manhattan painter) juxtaposed writings about reading with her sensual artwork. Now she turns her eye to food, presenting works of prose and poetry, humor and history, along with her own paintings, divided into four sections: nourishment, desire, hunger and sustenance (each introduced by several quotations on comestibles). The artwork and writing are vibrant, witty, thoughtful and often a bit saucy. M.F.K. Fisher’s musings on why she writes about food (“our basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled… we cannot think of one without the others”) rub shoulders with a pithy poem by Les Murray (“vegetarians eat sex, carnivores eat violence”), while Jhumpa Lahiri’s lyrical and lovely essay “Indian Takeout” is a curious contrast to Margaret Visser’s discourse on the history of cannibalism. Donald Hall’s “O Cheese,” a paean to cheddar, Gorgonzola and Roquefort, is fabulous fun. The book offers fulsome praise of the experience of eating: an appreciation of its sybaritic nature, gratitude for its plenty, consideration of its place in society. Sustenance is thought provoking as well; for example, Primo Levi’s “Last Christmas of the War,” set in Auschwitz, reminds us that hunger is also closely linked with survival. – Publishers Weekly

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