Synopses & Reviews
Food has never been more exalted as part of a lifestyle, yet fewer and fewer people really know what good food is. Drawing on enough culinary experiences to fill several lifetimes, Gina Mallet's irreverent memoir combines recollections of meals and their milieus with recipes and tasting tips.
In loving detail, Last Chance to Eat muses on the fates of foods that were once the stuff of feasts: light, fluffy eggs; rich cheeses; fresh meat; garden vegetables; and fish just hauled ashore. Mallet's gastronomic adventures appeal to any palate: from finding the perfect grilled cheese ("as delicate tasting as any Escoffier recipe") to combing the bustling food department at postwar Harrod's for the makings of "an Elizabeth David meal." The search for taste often takes her far from the beaten path to an underground "chevaline" restaurant serving horsemeat steaks and to purveyors of contraband Epoisses, for instance but the journey is always a delight.
"Being a gourmet isn't simply about ferreting out the best victuals; it's also about luxuriating in good food the way others might stroke a new mink coat. Toronto writer Mallet is one such epicure. In this combination of memoir and essay, she balances remembrances of growing up in wartime England with zesty opinions on various foodstuffs ('I don't consider cod a fish at all,' she writes. 'It's like eating twenty-dollar bills'). Mallet opines that in an era of Big Macs and a dizzying array of snack foods, people don't know what they're missing. Rather than delight in a few gulps of richly flavored raw milk, she laments, consumers today simply go for quantity over quality. Readers of this work will know better, however, since Mallet goes beyond describing comestible ecstasy and digs deep into topics like cheese, beef and fish. Like an excellent dinner guest, Mallet lets her thoughts roam freely, yet always with focus and a dose of intriguing fact. In writing about kitchen gardens, for example, she begins with the loss of her mother's vegetables and herbs from an errant German bomb that destroyed land and greenhouses alike. From there, she chats about Versailles, organic farming and supermarkets. This breadth of insight, mixed with Mallet's childhood memories, makes for a tasty treat." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Mallets strength lies in the sensual evocation of food; even a vegetarian might find pleasure in her rhapsody over the perfect steak." The New Yorker
"[A] well-crafted and engaging book; the reminiscences about food in Europe after the war provide a welcome personal touch." Library Journal
Drawing on enough culinary experiences to fill several lifetimes, Mallet's irreverent memoir combines recollections of meals and their milieus with recipes and tasting tips.
A witty and vividly remembered culinary memoir about how eating once was, and still can be, a joy.
About the Author
Gina Mallet, a writer living in Toronto, was a theater critic for the Toronto Star and now writes about food for the National Post.