As summer heats up and the pandemic rages on, we’re all looking for something new to watch or read right now. So for our August episode, The Four Top calls in three experts to recommend some of the best movies and novels that portray the culinary world.
Whether it’s “Spirited Away” or “Babette’s Feast,” you’ll come away from this episode with a long list of recommendations for your viewing queue, plus food-centric fiction for your beach blanket and bedside table.
Intrigue, narcissism, kleptocratic dictators… author Crystal King knows all about these topics. Because she lives today, in the United States. Aaaand because she writes fact-based fiction about the most prominent figures in culinary history, covering eras when high-end meals included dormice, flamingo tongues, and the occasional murder by poison.
King’s two fast-paced books got me through a couple of slow-moving pandemic weeks, and I recommend that you check them out if you’re looking for a page-turner with some historical depth. Feast of Sorrow is the saga of a slave, Thrasius, who develops and pens the recipes in the eponymous cookbook of his master, ensuring that the name of Marcus Gavius Apicius will go down in history. Set during the reign of Emperor Tiberius, the plot includes guest appearances by Prince Herod, the poet Ovid, and more.
The Chef’s Secret, set in Renaissance Rome, recounts the tale of the OG celebrity chef, Bartolomeo Scappi, who cooks for four popes, collaborates with Michelangelo, and gets entangled in major, Medici-level drama. When Scappi’s Opera dell’Arte del Cucinare was published in 1570, it became the world’s best-selling cookbook for the next two hundred years.
Note: I consumed these books in audiobook format. You can, too, through Multnomah Public Library’s Libby app or Audible.
“Binging with Babish” is a cooking show like no other, in which host Andrew Rea’s torso (he almost never shows his face) recreates dishes from film and fiction in sharply edited, masterful moves. In this episode, watch him turn out a timpano inspired by the film “Big Night.”
Each of the six participating wineries has created a special wine package for the event, with 10% of proceeds going to the Latino Partnership Program of the Oregon Community Foundation. I’m really looking forward to this conversation and I’d love to see you there!