Reviewed by Liam Anthony
Eats of Eden: A Foodoir (Alternating Current Press, 2018) by Tabitha Blankenbiller is a collection of personal essays discussing various topics such as growing up, relationships, soul-destroying jobs, procrastination, and writing. Mouth-watering recipes accompany each essay, punctuating the storytelling and serving as a delectable side dish to each essay’s main course.
Blakenbiller is romantic and witty in this collection. “Tequila for Dinner” is a hilarious and realistic depiction of a writer waiting for a reply after submitting her book proposal. She ponders whether the literary agent’s equivocal “great stuff, though” is a yes or a no with the clever witticism that you might expect from non-fiction heavyweights like Sloane Crosley or David Sedaris. “Great stuff, though,” Blankenbill writes. “Sixteen letters I clung to, an invisible talisman I rubbed raw.”
In addition to her natural ability to make us laugh, Blankenbiller is also a friend to the reader with her intelligent and confident prose. There’s an unpretentious quality to her voice, as her ruminations and stories render the reader both engaged and constantly entertained. She isn’t afraid of picking the scab off of wounds which haven’t still healed, leading to both humor and some wonderfully poignant moments.
There are quite a few pop culture references in Eats of Eden too, offering both a specific placement in time as well as supplementary material to drive each narrative forward. Talking about her time at a Beyoncé concert, Blankenbiller writes, “How inspiring it was to watch a woman appear so poised and undeniably happy.” To Blankenbiller, Beyoncé encourages female artists to embrace their creative agency, and in this collection, Blankenbiller succeeds in doing the same thing. Throw in a few Sex and the City references and some high-quality Netflix procrastination, and you’ve got yourself a book that can truly engage with your everyday life.
The essay “Sandcastles” not only documents the Beyoncé concert, but it subsequently leads to Blakenbiller’s sentimental side too. This essay takes a U- turn; it becomes about how life changes throughout your twenties, how you lose interest in aspiring to be something you are not, and how this affirmation and abandonment of the status quo provides a shower of confusion. Blakenbiller’s discovery is touching, “like a superstar with 20 costume changes, I was everything I treasured and denied.”
Furthermore, “Sandcastles” (my favorite, if you can’t tell) engages with a continuing narrative about Blakenbiller losing touch with her childhood friend. “Maybe Claire was never the love of my life that I lost. We were crutches to each other in a place in life where we couldn’t stand alone.” A line so beautifully crafted, laconic yet resonant, it is one of many moments in the book when Blakenbiller captures the meaning of both longing and letting go, whether it is a childhood friend or an idea for a book which never sees the light of day.
Eats of Eden: A Foodoir presents the bridge between your twenties and thirties, and it is a must for readers who are also writers. The “foodoir” coating to the collection provides the necessary seasoning to her essays and also offers some of the funniest cooking methods you’ll ever encounter.
Blakenbiller’s myriad recipes and instructions are also intensely amusing: “Take out, and allow to sit for 15 more minutes before slicing into this monstrosity.” When you read the essay “I am not going to France,” you will see why her serving recommendation for the lasagna is topped with anger.
Blakenbiller has made an invaluable contribution to the personal essay genre and to non-fiction in general. So curl up and devour this book. But be warned: you’re not going to want to read it on an empty stomach.
Purchase your copy of Eats of Eden: A Foodoir by Tabitha Blankenbiller from Indiebound HERE!