I finished two books this weekend, both relating to food.
The first book was Third Helpings by Calvin Trillin, a thin, humorous volume written in the 1980s. I read a selection of Trillin’s writing in American Food Writing and enjoyed it, so I added him to my “to read” list along with quite a few others. His writing reminded of nothing so much as Erma Bombeck, a writer who I had entirely forgotten until I read this book – even though I (embarassingly) read all the books of hers that my library had when I was in junior high. I enjoyed this book, but I think it was good that it is a short one, because his writing becomes rather predictable pretty quickly. I don’t think I need to read any of his other offerings, but this one was just the humorous break I needed for a day or so.
The second book I read this weekend (okay, okay, I finished it Monday morning on the train to work), was Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey. Jaffrey is a noted actress and cookbook author and this is her memoir of growing up in India. As you might expect, the book contains a lot of discussions of food, but it is also an interesting, personal look at the time surrounding Indian Independence from the eyes of a child. I love memoirs, and I think one of the things that I like about them, in addition to the fact that they are intensely personal, is that they are often self-limiting, dealing only with a certain phase of a person’s life. I think this focus makes the books stronger, and Jaffrey’s restriction of the book to her childhood, certainly does that for me here.