As it was for M. F. K. Fisher in The Gastronomical Me, food is more than a metaphor in The Bread and the Knife. It is the organizing principle of an existence. Starting with "A Is for Al Dente," the loosely linked chapters evoke an alphabet of food memories that recount a woman's emotional growth from the challenges of youth to professional accomplishment, marriage, and divorce. Betrayal is embodied in an overripe melon, her awakening in a Béarnaise sauce. Passion fruit juice portends the end of a first marriage, while tarte tatin offers redemption. Each letter serves up a surprising variation on the struggle for self-knowledge, the joy and pain of familial and romantic love, and food's astonishing ability to connect us with both the living and the dead.
Ranging from her grandmother's suburban kitchen to an elegant New York restaurant, a longhouse in Borneo, and a palace in Rajasthan, The Bread and the Knife charts the vicissitudes of a woman forced to swallow some hard truths about herself while discovering that the universe can dispense surprising second chances.
The book includes six recipes that run the gamut from "Crepes filled with Huitlacoche" to her stepfather's homely "Stromboli Stuffing," including a couple that are more entertaining to read about than to prepare, like liquified olives with pimento.