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Equal Parts Memoir, Cookbook And Lit-Crit, 'Voracious' Tells Delicious Stories

Cara Nicoletti loves food almost as much as she loves books. Over the years she has found herself thinking about the delicious dishes woven into the stories she loved as a child. In fact, she tells NPR's Rachel Martin that when she re-read her old books, she found underlines that she didn't remember making in the sections about food.

Now Nicoletti has married her two great loves in a book called Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books. It's a collection of short, biographical vignettes about her experiences with favorite pieces of literature, and a recipe inspired by each one.

Interview Highlights

On getting through a difficult time with help from Maurice Sendak

It was sort of a perfect storm of everything going wrong at the same time. I was living with my older sister and my boyfriend at the time in this little apartment in Brooklyn, which I still live in, and we all lost our jobs at the same time ...

I was wandering around the neighborhood the day that they laid me off, and I stumbled across this bakery that I'd never seen before. ... It's an overnight baking facility, and it was full of conveyor belts, full of bread rolling out. And it reminded me so much of In The Night Kitchen, which I think was kind of perfect because so many of Sendak's characters are kind of wandering and lost and alone. And that was how I felt at that moment. But, thankfully, usually they all end up back in their beds and safe again. And I did too. I was fine.

On an homage to a disgusting lunch in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar

[Esther, the book's protagonist,] goes to a luncheon — she's working at a fashion magazine — and they serve avocados with crab salad in them. They're covered in mayo (it sounds disgusting), and then everyone gets sick with food poisoning from whatever they ate at the lunch. Probably the crab salad that was sitting out at room temperature ...

So often, the foods scenes that are most powerful in books are not necessarily the most appetizing. But that doesn't make them any less powerful. It's actually a really delicious salad. I updated it a little bit. Instead of mayo, it has a citrus base. So it's fresh crab and then there's cherry tomatoes, cilantro and red onion. It's all tossed together and you just put it in an avocado!

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NPR Staff