My sister and I read this book in tandem last weekend, with her intermittently sneaking it away to her room whenever she spotted it lying idle on the coffee table/my bed pillow/the couch and me hunting it down Sherlock Holmes style in an effort to finish what I'd started... and was enjoying. In this little literary love triangle, the book was Brad, I was Jen and my sister, Jess, was Angelina.
Given that our usual taste in printed matter, as with clothes and men, are poles apart, our mutual affection for Giulia Melucci's memoir came as a surprise, though we each derived a different pleasure from the reading. I knew Jess would take interest as soon as I mentioned the author was a Brooklyn foodie with a penchant for dating angst-ridden creative/intellectual types, as she has been dating a Brooklyn-based gourmand for the better part of a year. Meanwhile, I relished the opportunity to have a Sex and the City style encounter with an author more interested in spaghetti than shoes, whose candid humour, self-deprecation and voracious appetite for new music keep her work from falling into well-trodden Eat Pray Love naval-gazing territory.
For Melucci, food is an emotional issue: she feeds her men to please, appease and tease, and cooks herself scrumptious pasta dishes – rather than falling head-first into a block of Cadbury – when they inevitably break up with her (apparently, the way to a man's heart is not always through his stomach). Jess got a kick out of the "emotionally inspired gourmet snacks" littered throughout each chapter, such as the pointed 'f*#k you cupcakes' (“Do not over mix, as this will make for tough cupcakes and you’ve suffered enough,” she quips) and 'Morning after pumpkin bread'. I skipped over a lot of the recipes, as I felt they slightly disrupted the flow of the text, though came away with a hankering for a hearty pasta dish.
Jess also loved the opportunity to relive part of her NYC experience: "Although Melucci works in Manhattan and dines in fancy restaurants, such as Soho's Blue Ribbon, she moves across the bridge from her Lower East Side apartment to the outskirts of Manhattan, living in Park Slope and Brooklyn. She shops at Sahadis Fine Foods, haunts bars in Smith Street and embarks on a subway date with a man who dwells in Williamsburg."
Now 42, Melucci is decidedly circumspect about her seemingly perpetual singledom as she recounts each one of her often turbulent relationships for our voyeuristic pleasure (each chapter represents a new man and ends with a bitter-sweet break-up). There's the 'older' New Yorker cartoonist who travels via Vespa, the moody writer (think Carrie Bradshaw's Burger) with an alcohol problem, and the Scottish author who uses her to get his next novel published (successfully) amongst others. You get the sense that Melucci is on a mission to save these men, one meal at a time.
Despite her lack in the love-luck department, the accomplished book publicist tells the New York Times of her eagerness to please by way of the kitchen: “I thought it would make them love me. You really ultimately hope it’s going to get you that love we all want.” It might also have something to do with latent father issues: hers died three days before her high school graduation, he spent most of his down-time on the golf course and she says she was the "ignored youngest" of five children. Jess observes: "She makes herself quite vulnerable to rejection, but I think it's the loss and betrayal that gives her resilience and keeps her wanting more."
Author psychoanalysis aside, most women will identify with some part of Melucci's entertaining dating chronicles. Enjoy it with a glass of red wine and cheese on bread. Tandem reading with sibling optional.
I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci, $34, Macmillan
Girl With a Satchel & Sister