The Gourmet – Muriel Barbery

December 5, 2015 § Leave a comment

I am typically a fast reader. While it’s not something I’m extremely proud of (sometimes speed-reading comes so naturally, I tend to skip past long passages of writing where nothing really seems to be happening), it is something that I’m used to. This book, however, simply would not allow me to read through it quickly. If it is at all possible, it was as if the writing style itself was forcing me to slow down, to pace myself, to control my wandering eyes from taking a quick peek at the next paragraph, and put my full concentration on the phrase at hand.

The Gourmet is a foodie’s book. The way Barbery describes the various types of food – from simple dishes to lavish feasts – is enough to make your mouth water. So much so that sometimes, it almost feels like you’re tasting the flavours and feeling the sensations yourself. Think of the orange sorbet, with its icy cold touch melting in your warm mouth, the texture of rough little lumps against your tongue, and that cool tangy liquid that soothes and entices your expectant throat…

The Gourmet is also a book about lost things. It’s about a man’s search for a flavour that he cannot really recall, but is aching to reunite with. It’s also about lost opportunities – chances he will never get again, to reconcile with his children, to love his wife, to make amends, to live life with a passion he had saved exclusively for the food he eats and the reviews he writes.

It’s not a book about regret – he doesn’t regret any of the decisions he has made in life. He describes himself as a man of property; someone who has built a life by collecting things of beauty.

I love my life, as I have always loved the beautiful objects in my life. That is the way it is. I have lived as a man of property, and I shall die as one, with neither qualms nor sentimental indulgence; nor do I regret having accumulated property or having conquered souls and beings as if I were acquiring an expensive painting.

I don’t like writing about the books I read by saying that they are “funny”, or “emotional” or any of those jazz words. This book, of course, was both funny and emotional, but that’s not the point. The point, with this book, and with all other books that I read, is what it does for me. The Gourmet managed to teach me something that no other book has done for me so far. It showed me just how much I may be missing out on when I speed through the text. Text that authors pore over and spend so much of their time and effort trying to perfect and make just right. Words that have been crossed over and replaced over and over just to find the perfect fit. Phrases that have been edited and cut and spliced in so many different ways just so that it flows as naturally as water flows in a quiet river.

It’s a book that has shown me the beauty of reading slowly, of understanding every bit of the phrase, of indulging myself into the body of work.

It’s a book that spoke to me of one truth: It’s really not about how many books you read, or how many truly unique delicacies you taste in a lifetime. It’s about that moment you immerse yourself absolutely and completely. It’s about what you feel right now, in this moment, and knowing how to give yourself fully to it. To let it take you in, body and soul, so that you may come out of it a new person.


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