Wednesday, April 19, 2006


So I'm reading Anna Karenina. The one by Leo Tolstoy. Okay, so I am reading it because I am SMART and INTERESTING but also because a person whose opinion I trust more than anybody's recommended it to me. I figure: this person GETS ME, you know, and also when he said READ THIS, MEGAN, IT'S AMAZING, HERE TAKE MY COPY YOU CAN EVEN UNDERLINE IT IF YOU WANT, I really had no excuses not to.

So I'm reading it, but honestly: ANNA KARENINA IS SOME HEAVY SHIT! How a Russian novel, in the first 60 pages, has already reduced me to tears on the F and B trains and, I am not kidding, the ELEVATOR up to my office, is beyond me. I haven't even gotten to the juicy juice of the novel yet, and I'm already a blubbering baby over it. Did I mention that I love being devastated by books? Well, I do.

Why do I mention this in a blog that's ostensibly about food? Because an early and memorable passage in the novel takes place over a meal at a hotel called the Anglia, and it's A. MAZE. ING.

It's amazing for so many reasons: because of the ritual and ceremony which surrounds the meal; the many servants and waiters who first serve Stepan and Levin, and then the single waiter's obsequiousness; how the information that fresh oysters have come in from Flensburg changes Stepan's original menu plan (he had already thought of what the pair should eat pre-arrival!); how the waiter insists on naming the dishes in French though Stepan and Levin refuse to do so themselves; the extent of the order, the vegetable soup, the turbot with thick sauce, the roast beef and also capon (!); the champagne, Chablis, and an order of Parmesan cheese; and, after all this, the CONVERSATION that occurs over such a meal!

The conversation, like the meal, is UNBELIEVABLE. YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK IF ONLY FOR THIS!

Here is a sample, and Tolstoy uses one of the best food metaphors I've ever read within it. Stepan is the first to speak:

"Here's what. Suppose you're married, you love your wife, but you become infatuated with another woman..."

Levin replies:

"Excuse me, but I decidedly do not understand how I...just as I don't understand how I could pass by a bakery, as full as I am now, and steal a sweet roll."
Stepan Arkadyich's eyes shone more than usual.
"Why not? Sometimes a sweet roll is so fragrant that you can't help yourself. 'Himmlisch ist's, wenn ich bezwungen/Mein irdische Begier;/Aber doch wenn's nicht gelungen,/Hatt' ich auch recht hubsch Plaisir!'*"


Most of us are like Stepan. I wish to be like Levin!

*'Heavenly it would be to conquer/My earthly lusts;/But though I've not succeeded,/I still have lots of pleasure' - from the libretto of Die Fledermaus.


Blogger guido said...

There's always room for J-E-L-L-O ... or a nice sweet roll?

4:25 AM  

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