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Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love    by Lara Vapnyar order for
Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love
by Lara Vapnyar
Order:  USA  Can
Pantheon, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book
*   Reviewed by Lori Waddington

Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love is a collection of six short stories about Eastern European emigrés who desperately crave intimacy, but find themselves ultimately satisfied by food.

In the first story, A Bunch of Broccoli On The Third Shelf, we meet Nina, who has finally found a man who shares her love of broccoli, but he is already married. Then there's Borscht, with Sergey spending time with a prostitute who satisfies him with borscht rather than sex. And in Puffed Rice And Meatballs, Katya relates to her lover some of her most vivid memories of food from her youth.

In Salad Olivier, Tanya meets a man who would rather share meals with her family than spend time alone with her. Luda and Milena attempt to outcook each other to win over a widower in their English class, ultimately ending in tragedy. And in the final story, Slicing Sauteed Spinach, Ruzena's lover introduces her to the food she really loves.

I felt that these stories read mostly like unfinished drafts, which is a shame, as this book has great potential to be fulfilling. I did like Lara Vapnyar's roundup of recipes at the end of her book, including one for meatballs which 'contains such an extravagant quantity of red meat and fat, most doctors ... swear that consistent consumption of this dish will cause if not immediate death than eventual clogging of the arteries.'

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