Growing up is a necessary part of life. As we age, we evolve and devolve and the memory of how we were young once upon a time gradually fades away. If I were given a chance, I would like to be young again not for anything but just to feel that breath of simplicity, recklessness and optimism again. While we know what humanity is, we try to become desensitized or be unaffected so as to stay spirited, hopeful and non-judgmental. Being impartial, open minded and objective is a defining element of adulthood.
Words like ‘pretence’,‘fraud’ and ‘corruption’ are no longer just part of our vocabulary but they are real and present in every aspect of our modern lives. We keep up the masquerade and wait for opportune moments as we become calculating and mull over each step we take as if we are moving around our pawns on a chessboard. In doing so, the things that we once believed in may take on a different light and as we move forward, the line between what is right and what is wrong has become unclear. We do not want to hate or dread what we become.
I would like to quote this passage from Sweetbitter as the writer equates life to taste.
‘TASTE, Chef said, is all about balance. The sour, the salty, the sweet, the bitter. Now your tongue is coded. A certain connoiseurship of taste, a mark of how you deal with the world, is the ability to relish the bitter, to crave it even, the way you do the sweet. ‘
Sweetbitter written by Stephanie Danler is a story about 22-year-old Tess who leaves home and lands a job at a renowned Union Square restaurant and she is hungry for food, wine, love and friendship. She is an English major and when she arrives in New York, she decides to leave her books behind and for the first time in her life, she is reading nothing.
The novel is divided into four seasons and it begins with Summer.
‘YOU WILL DEVELOP a palate.
A palate is a spot on your tongue where you remember. Where you assign words to the textures of taste. Eating becomes a discipline, language-obsessed. You will never simply eat food again.’
Under ‘Spring’, Ms Danler begins,
‘ YOU WILL SEE it coming. Not you actually because you don’t see for yourself yet, everyone is busy seeing for you, days filled with unsolicited advice you don’t take and trite warnings you can’t hear and the whitewashing of all your excitement. Yes, they definitely saw it coming, exactly the way it came.
When you’re older you will know that at some unconscious level not only did you see it coming, but you created it, in your own blind, stumbling way. You will console yourself with the fact that it wouldn’t have mattered, seeing it or not seeing it.You were a sponge for incident. Maybe everyone is when they’re young. They don’t remember, nobody remembers what it feels like to be so recklessly absorbent.
When you can’t see in front of you life is nothing but surprises. Looking back , there were truly so few of them. ‘
The prose is fast moving and the narration is smooth. The female characters are compelling as they have to navigate their way through the glitzy night life and the fast and chaotic beat and efficiency that a popular restaurant commands.The dialogues and narration about fine dining and wine are tantalizing. Ultimately the story is in essence about sensory awakening of the palate and the growth of Tess, a young woman from being shy, smiling too much, romantic and non-articulate to become a vocal and self- possessed person. Coming of age is definitely a sweetbitter journey for the twenty-two-year-old protagonist. Life can be brutally sweet. It was an education that they never taught you in school or varsity.
Ms Danler moved to New York in 2006. click She has gone through several restaurant jobs and earned a master of fine arts degree in creative writing at the New School.Sweetbitter is her debut novel. There is a television drama series based on the book and it has caused some controversy as the television critics had # MeToo on their minds. click