Be My Guest: Reflections on Food, Community, and the Meaning of Generosity

Knopf. Sept. 2020. 144p. ISBN 9780525657859. $19.95. ANTHRO
In this first work of nonfiction, novelist Basil (Strangers on the 16:02) does not hold back in asking difficult questions about the complex nature of hospitality and how it reflects deeply ingrained cultural traits in both the host, guest, and society as a whole. Basil moved often throughout her life and lived in several countries, including Great Britain, Kenya, and Germany. As a child, she observed how her grandmother would use her elaborate cooking to fulfill a need for love and validation, but this also led to her grandmother having complicated relationships with those around her. Basil’s approach to exploring the notion of what it means to be hospitable brings a fresh perspective to the nuances of cultural, familial, and personal expectations within hospitality. As an avid food lover, she uses culinary expression as the primary way to explore how traditionally different cultures use food to show both acceptance and rejection toward one another. This is a deeply personal and honest reflection on family, tradition, and custom.
VERDICT Blending the personal and the philosophical, this account is recommended for readers interested in sociology, anthropology, and cuisine.

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