From the pages of Eatstreets

Author: Various

Publisher: Virago

RRP: $27.99

The Virago Book of Food: The Joy of Eating

19 January 2010.
Reviewed by Stephanie Clifford-Smith

One of the best things about anthologies is the way they introduce you to writers in manageable, bite-sized chunks and set you on paths of further exploration once you’ve set the volume aside. Such is the case with this compilation of women’s food writing from around the world.

Shoba Narayan, a writer new to me and one I’ll be hunting down in future, hooked me with this opening paragraph:

“The most important thing when travelling by train in India is not the location of your seat (first-class is more comfortable, second-class more congenial), whether you have confirmed tickets, or even your destination. The crucial element is the size of your neighbor’s tiffin carrier.”

From then on it’s an Indian drool-fest, chronicling the specialties sold on train platforms around the Subcontinent. The piece is from Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes for your reference.

The book’s divided into categories such as Festive Fare (featuring an interesting piece by sometime Sydney Eats reviewer Cherry Ripe), Solitary Pleasures, Food of Love, Exotic Tastes and Regrettable Meals. While it includes works by the usual foodie suspects such as Elizabeth David, Claudia Roden and Madhur Jaffrey, other women such as Margaret Atwood, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf and even Barbara Cartland also contribute.

Naturally, stupendous feasts are part of the mix but Elizabeth David’s piece about a dream Christmas involving far less food and a correspondingly lighter workload highlights the drudgery many women endure through the festive season. 

An excellent choice for dipping into.

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