A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Saturday Shorts Week 31
Welcome to our weekend series for 2014. Every Saturday this year one of our staff will suggest a favorite short story from the library’s collection, all of them a great choice for quick weekend reading.
Brendan Connell’s Lives of Notorious Cooks consists of 51 short biographies of completely fictional chefs. Their lives are inventive and fantastical, ranging over world history from ancient China to 20th Century Europe. You’ll meet a chef whose meat pies sing, one who will only cook lentils, one who prefers to serve living animals, and another whose wormwood cakes might be causing him to mistake his skillets for demons.
My favorite notorious chef, though, is Marx Rumpolt. The son of a Transylvanian librarian, young Marx finds the remains of two bookworms in the 1498 Aldine Deipnosophistae. (A very real edition of a very obscure book, in which a philosophical dialogue takes place over the course of a few diners.) He fashions these two dead worms into a ring that gives him almost supernatural culinary powers. From his humble beginnings, Max ascends the social ladder and ends up cooking for the Queen of Denmark, then the Grand Duke of Lithuania, until he ends up—rather fittingly— in Gutenberg’s city as chef to the Elector of Mainz.
I highly recommend grabbing our copy of Lives of Notorious Cooks next time you’re in the library. It’s addictive reading—funny, clever, quickly paced, and incredibly weird. Start with “Marx Rumpolt” and then flip around until you’ve found you’re own favorite.
Review by Matthew