May 24, 2020
Sacred Reads: Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler
At the time of writing, eating out may be strictly out of bounds but it can still be enjoyed vicariously, albeit in this case, from the other side of the service door. Sweetbitter is a coming-of-age novel, set in an upscale New York restaurant which has, not surprisingly, striking similarities to the rather swanky Union Square Cafe, where Danler worked when she first arrived in the city. The protagonist, Tess, comes to New York to escape her home town in Ohio with the "twin pillars of church and football." She finds a job as a backwaiter - folding napkins, bringing up crates of beer and wine, polishing glasses - and unwittingly embarks on a crash course in Epicureanism. Desperate to discover the secret of becoming a fifty-one percenter - "forty-nine percent of the job is just the mechanics...the fifty one percent is the tricky stuff" - Tess often struggles to find a foothold in this new and exciting - but also challenging and sometimes lonely - environment. This is Danler's first novel and it's an engaging read, great on the detail and pressures of working one's way up from the bottom of the food chain, so to speak.