While at the beach, I had the chance to devour two food-centered books that I think nearly anyone could enjoy. The first one (my fave among the two) was The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. The book had been recommended by a friend, as well as O Magazine, and it was actually released last summer.
Rose Edelstein's life is trucking along just fine, until her ninth birthday. Around that time, she begins being able to taste emotions in her food. Whether the person preparing her meals is angry, rushed, sad, happy, unfulfilled - Rose can eat one bite and know. This magical gift, of course, tells Rose much more than she wants to know about her mom, dad, and other adults in her life. As she grows older, Rose learns to cope with and eventually embrace her gift, while also discovering the she isn't the only member of her family with special skills.
I thought this was a great, original novel. Bender does a admirable job taking things that seem impossible and making them absolutely believable. It's also a delight to watch Rose's eventual triumph unfold.
I also read The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. In this book, chef Lillian holds a cooking class at her restaurant once a month. The book tells the story not only of Lillian, but of each of her students. Each one is dealing with different problems and joys in their lives, and each one is taking the class for a different reason.
As the story progresses, I realized that the essential ingredients were actually the students and the impacts they have on one another throughout the book. This tome is not as complex as the first one, but made for a perfect beach read. Plus, the descriptions of food were divine.