In The Paper Palace, remembered moments from Elle’s past are what reveals who she is and how she has come to the impossible decision she faces on this day, and the connection of food to those memories and moments pervades the novel. In fact, I would say that almost all of the scenes that tell the emotional stories from Elle’s past involve food in some way. Picnics, diners, dim sum, family dinners… During Elle’s day we will see the family at breakfast (scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, marmalade), a picnic lunch on the beach, and dinner at a BBQ where Elle’s search for a decent bottle of white wine in the hosts’ fridge (Sancerre) ultimately leads to her epiphany.
The novel quite literally begins with the un-cleared table and, in the final chapters of the novel, we see the table is being set for that dinner party, the dinner being cooked…the guests arriving, sitting down to dinner.
It would be so fun for book clubs to recreate this dinner party. Of course, if it could be on a screen porch in the summer, even better! Set the table with a white linen tablecloth, a white bowl filled with limes and green pears in the center of the table in place of a flower arrangement; cloth napkins. Maybe martinis before dinner? Cheese and crackers, radishes with salt. And the meal: Pasta a la Bolognese, a cucumber salad with dill and mint, delicious artisanal bread that you tear from rather than slice. A hunk of Parmesan on the table. Red wine should be a Claret; white a Sancerre. A dessert of fresh pears and sorbet. Espresso (decaf probably). Grappa as the liquor. Maybe play some Fleetwood Mac and Earth, Wind, and Fire after dinner. And, before dessert, take turns reading the stanzas of the Shelley poem “To a Skylark.” And invite me, please, because it sounds delicious!!
The recipe for Bolognese sauce is mostly laid out in the novel. A proper Bolognese sauce is brown, not red. So, add in fresh chopped tomatoes, maybe a few squirts of tomato paste. Salt the water for the pasta. Lots of freshly grated parmesan at the end. YUM!!”– Miranda Cowley Heller