Monday, March 3, 2014

Gulp VS Relish: Dubuque Tournament of Books, Round One

This week we'll be posting the judges' decisions for the first round of the 2nd Annual Dubuque Tournament of Books. To see an overview of the judges and contestants, check out this blog post. 

Judge: Fran
Comparing Lucy Knisley’s Relish: My Life in the Kitchen and Mary Roach’s Gulp is like comparing pancakes and pigs’ feet. Both books deal with food but in a totally different context.

Let's first look at the ways the two books are similar.  Both are written by women who have a rich sense of humor and a clever writing style. Both are nonfiction. The consumption of food is a subject frequently mentioned in the two books. Both have amusing illustrations.

The Gulp illustrations appear prior to a chapter and are generally realistic. Knisley’s illustrations, since Relish is a graphic novel, are fundamental to both the format and the story. The cartoons are bright, colorful, and charming.  They help tell the story of Kinisley’s adventures and also provide a step-by-step guide for how to prepare the recipes she includes.  Her cartoon style reminded me of the Archie comics I enjoyed as a child.

Their differences are more apparent. Relish, a young adult book, is a memoir of Lucy Knisley’s childhood and young adulthood experiences with food. Her mother is a chef and her father a gourmand so she grows up eating a wide variety of food. She learns to cook, and to appreciate and enjoy food.  As a child and teen, she helps her mother with her garden and works in her catering business. The book is composed of her personal memories and her reflections on cooking and eating. Although several recipes are included they are her own or her mother’s recipes and no particular scientific information is offered.

On the other hand, Glup: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, while written in a humorous and somewhat breezy style, is definitely a scientific work. Roach includes numerous footnotes and a twelve page bibliography. Details are given of experiments performed in the 1800s on through ones being done today. She conducts interviews and reports her discoveries. The language she uses is scientific although much of it is understandable and palatable to the non-scientist. She references her personal experiences, but they are related to the circumstances of a particular interview.

Roach is a well-known, established author. Many adults will choose to read her works and will find them enlightening. I highly recommend Gulp, but I feel it is a book that one should select as a personal preference. Given the subject matter, I don’t want to force someone to read it. On the other hand, since Relish is a book that many adults are going to pass over. It is a light, quick read and will make you smile. It will provide a much needed breath of fresh air as we struggle through the last months of a trying winter. And like me, a reader might discover that a graphic novel can be interesting and fun to read.

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