"I am the greatest food critic in the world," thinks 68-year-old Pierre Arthens, just 48 hours from death. "It is I who has taken this minor art and raised it to a rank of utmost prestige. Everyone knows my name, from Paris to Rio, Moscow to Brazzaville, Saigon to Melbourne and Acapulco."
Yup, he's insufferable, and yet there are those who love him. In "Gourmet Rhapsody," we see Pierre from all angles; his wife and three children; his beloved nephew; his concierge, his dog. These myriad impressions are what he leaves behind. "His prose . . . his prose was nectar, ambrosia, a hymn to language: it was gut-wrenching, and it hardly mattered whether he was talking about food or something else." Pierre remembers the tastes of his childhood; of Tangier and Rabat. He remembers his grandmother's cooking, his Aunt Marthe's garden, a true American breakfast he had in a San Francisco diner. He longs for a particular flavor. He can't think what it is -- until his very last moments. A pastry -- chouquettes -- complex and unique and rare in the way that only simple foods can be. Pierre is the Grinch. His heart is three sizes too small:
"I am an encyclopedic esthete," he confesses, "who is always one dish ahead of the game -- but always one heart behind."