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Comfort Me with Apples: Considering the Pleasures of the Table

by Joe Fiorito

Anyone who hunts for excellent prose in the current thicket of book-product overproduction should delight that Joe Fiorito’s collection of columns on food, Comfort Me with Apples, which was originally published in 1994, has been reissued.

Fiorito, of course, is the author of the tender and elegiac autobiography The Closer We Are to Dying, about the death of his father, published to great critical acclaim last year. He is also the National Post’s Toronto city columnist. However, most of these pieces (10 are new to this edition) date from when Fiorito was lesser known, writing for enRoute and Montreal’s Hour magazine.

Nonetheless, these 59 short personal narratives show that Fiorito is one of our best writers. Tough and funny, yet deeply compassionate and deceptively simple, Fiorito’s voice owes as much to Raymond Chandler and S.J. Perelman as it does to, say, William Carlos Williams. His writing is tight, his wit oblique, his humanity large. Consider the compact closing lines from the opening essay, “Feast or Famine,” about sating hunger with prosciutto:

Mopping our plates with the last of the bread.

Our bellies full.

Us, smiling.

That’s almost haiku. Indeed, while avoiding anything esoteric, Fiorito often takes these essays as close to poetry as the form can get.

Boiled dinners, buying pork chops, kids stealing candy, men lusting after an extraordinarily carnivorous woman, sushi dinner with an Inuk (those other great consumers of raw fish), moonshine, and most anything Italian: all, and much more, shimmer in Fiorito’s hands; all are infused with a joy of food. And as Julia Child said, “Food is life.”

Oh, and there are recipes, too. The best are those folded so neatly into the prose that you don’t even consider getting up to cook. After all, who wants to eat when the reading is just so good?