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The New Yorker: "Gourmet Rhapsody"

Date: Sep 28 2009

This trifle of a tale preceded Barbery’s best-seller “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” in France but follows it in publication here, which is rather like serving the amuse-bouche after the entrée. An eminent and ruthless food critic lies dying, struggling to pinpoint the one flavor from his youth that constitutes “the first and ultimate truth” of his life. His lucid memories—of his first taste of sashimi (“a milky density unknown even by clouds”) and of Scotch (“My organs no longer existed”), for example—are intercut with jejune plaints from a parade of figures, including the children he acknowledges he never loved, the wife he thinks of as a beautiful object, and, wincingly, his cat. Still, Barbery’s invocations of gustatory pleasure are seductive. Biting into a freshly plucked tomato, the critic exults in “this plump little globe unleashing a flood of nature inside us: a tomato, an adventure.” 

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