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Edible Stories: A Novel in Sixteen Parts

Edible Stories: A Novel in Sixteen Parts

by Mark Kurlansky

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All-new stories about the food we share, love, and fight over from the national bestselling author of Cod and Salt.

In these linked stories, Mark Kurlansky reveals the bond that can hold people together, tear them apart, or make them become vegan: food. Through muffins or hot dogs, an indigenous Alaskan fish soup, a bean curd Thanksgiving


All-new stories about the food we share, love, and fight over from the national bestselling author of Cod and Salt.

In these linked stories, Mark Kurlansky reveals the bond that can hold people together, tear them apart, or make them become vegan: food. Through muffins or hot dogs, an indigenous Alaskan fish soup, a bean curd Thanksgiving turkey or potentially toxic crème brulee, a rotating cast of characters learns how to honor the past, how to realize you're not in love with someone any more, and how to forgive. These women and men meet and eat and love, leave and drink and in the end, come together in Seattle as they are as inextricably linked with each other as they are with the food they eat and the wine they drink.

Kurlansky brings a keen eye and unerring sense of humanity to these stories. And throughout, his love and knowledge of food shows just how important a role what we eat plays in our lives.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kurlansky (Salt) moves from his acclaimed nonfiction to a linked collection of spotty-quality fiction. Food is the unifying theme, but in the least successful efforts--"Crème Brulee," "Espresso," "Boudin," and "Hot Pot"--the foodstuffs are smothered by weak characters that are conveyed with less skill than the often lyrical passages devoted to the victuals. In the better pieces, the sensory and cultural anchors that food provide are gorgeously explored, as in "Osetra," which charts the gustatory awakening of a Puerto Rican shoplifter, and "Menudo" in which a stolid and driven U.S. senator bridges a cultural divide with unexpected tenderness. In a contrarian vein, the sludgy salmon brew of "The Soup" reinforces the gap between the last speaker of an Alaskan native language and the inept but earnest anthropologist trying to prevent the language from dying out. "Red Sea Salt," "Orangina," and "Cholent," meanwhile, introduce equal measures of comic ridiculousness and sly wit to varying degrees of satisfaction. While certainly lighter than Kurlansky's engrossing nonfiction, this remains a mostly successful consideration of the role food plays in life. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Best known for his nonfiction works (Cod; Salt), Kurlansky rarely dabbles in pure fiction. His last work of fiction, Boogaloo on 2nd Avenue: A Novel of Pastry, Guilt, and Music, was an ambitious effort focused on the intersections of culture, love, and, of course, food. A similar concept is applied in this work, with a focus on food as the thread that ties humanity together. Though this book is presented as a novel, the main story is hidden within a gumbo of 16 different vignettes: blended versions of characters and ingredients, rearranged into a multitude of subplots. From hot dogs to hot pot, Kurlansky reaffirms the universal importance of food without the history lesson. As with his nonfiction, Kurlansky is an enjoyable author because his enthusiasm for his subject is undeniable. This latest work of fiction allows him to take the reader along on the journey, not just through the facts. VERDICT Kurlansky fans will not be disappointed, and readers who enjoy Joanne Harris (Chocolat) will find much to devour in his latest effort.—Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH
Kirkus Reviews

Kurlansky (The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris, 2010, etc.) dishes up a loosely concatenated novel, each part titled after a food that plays a starring role in that chapter.

The surrealistic opening, "Red Sea Salt," introduces us to Robert Eggle, who finds himself literally in a hole. When he emerges, he discovers that he's lost both his memory and his sense of smell and taste. He needs to re-create his personal and professional life but discovers it's not that difficult to fake his way through—even though it turns out he's a noted writer on food. (In a later chapter, it's mentioned that he's about to get his own show on the Food Channel.) In another chapter, a woman finds out she's incompatible with her putatively perfect lover when they go to a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. She's turned off by his gourmet tastes, for all she wants is standard stadium fare—hot dogs and beer—while he brings in Cajun shrimp, stuffed veal with pistachios and artichokes in herbs and olive oil. In "Osetra," a tough brother (ironically nicknamed Wonderbread) is involved in filching some food from a market and discovers the complex pleasure of Osetra caviar: "It exploded on his tongue—fragile, buttery bubbles of flavor, dark and rich as his mother's bacalao." "Belons" takes us to France, where an aging man fulfills his dream of living in Paris and also discovers belons, succulent oysters from Brittany, that work their aphrodisiac magic. In "Menudo," a senator in Mexico on an official political visit beds down with his translator, leading to a leisurely erotic day because she won't let him leave until he tastes her menudo...which, like love and sex, cannot be rushed. In another chapter, the scion of a family owning an estate in Bordeaux goes to Paris and discovers an even more succulent beverage—Orangina.

A delicious and delectable novel by an award-winning food writer that leaves you wanting more.

Mark Bittman
Every page of this book reflects the depth of Kurlansky's eclectic knowledge, and almost every page features his wit and charm. He writes warmly and authoritatively on subjects as diverse as ­menudo (the Mexican tripe stew), indigenous peoples of the South Pacific and Alaska, wine, baseball, love, sex, oysters, French politics and Orangina. There is more than a touch of Lorrie Moore here. Foods and characters come and go, strange things happen, exotica abounds and despite a terrifying whiff of cannibalism, there is humor everywhere.
—The New York Times

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.70(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Mark Kurlansky is the New York Times bestselling author of many books, including The Food of a Younger Land, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World; Salt: A World History; 1968: The Year That Rocked the World; and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. He lives in New York City.

Brief Biography

New York, NY
Date of Birth:
December 7, 1948
Place of Birth:
Hartford, CT
Butler University, B.A. in Theater, 1970

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