Monday, July 4, 2011

4. Food

[The following is part of Peta Mayer's 10 Things to Expect From a Brookner Novel.]

are ‘mildly anorexic’ – according to Fraud’s Dr Halliday, that is. While it’s true that you’ll never catch a Brooknerine eating trifle out of the fridge at midnight, Brookner’s novels evince a fascination with food. There is food as family memory and ritual: ‘the faintly sour flavours of the buttermilk, rye bread, caraway seeds, cucumbers’ of Ruth’s grandmother in A Start in Life or the ‘vigorous and haphazard cooking’ of Kitty’s Papa in Providence (1982). There is food as character signifier: you might consider Lizzie Peckham as an empty carton of low-fat yoghurt in A Closed Eye (1991), or Blanche Vernon as ‘a single Dover sole’ in A Misalliance or the sphinx-like bulimic Monica as a plate of cakes in Hotel du Lac (1984). Blanche also has a collection of fine wines on offer: Vouvray, Sancerre, Malaga, Muscadet, Mersault, Sauternes, Liebfraumilch, which, at times, may substitute for more solid options. In Falling Slowly (1998), Miriam’s catering is geared to the appetites of her lover Simon and include asparagus quiche, smoked salmon, Pain de campagne, Boursin and the first Cox’s.

In Brief Lives, Fay Dodworth’s impeccable menus on occasion manage to distract Julia Morton from her diet of omelettes and whiskey. Fay seduces with a ‘careful’ casserole of chicken and peppers, followed by lemon mousse and coconut tuiles; little parcels of cold salmon, of tongue, of fruit tart and hothouse peach and madiera cake; vegetable terrine, baked chicken and rice, fresh rolls and a slither of Stilton; cold veal with a tunny sauce and strawberry tart; a simple salad of tomatoes, basil and olives, drizzled with oil, cold curried chicken and fruit salad; rice salad and sherry and seed cake. Specialised modes of consumption are integral to the practice of elegant living and are complicit in the soft infusion of glamour throughout Brookner’s novels.

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