I’m a huge book nerd, and I don’t care who knows it. I live for a really good book, but I’ve recently developed the cynical view that there’s no way any author could possibly top the excellent books I’ve already read. Thankfully, I’m wrong about this. I’m continually star struck by superb literature, and Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler is one that has left me especially in awe.In addition to being a massive book nerd, I’m also a huge nerd about food, fresh metaphors, and pretty things, and Sweetbitter is a miraculous combination of all three. I’m really unashamed to admit that I low-key cried a little every chapter because the writing was so gorgeous.
The novel is about a 22-year-old girl that packs up, moves to New York, and gets a job as a backwaiter in a famous but nameless Manhattan restaurant. The book follows her education in food, service, and life. Not only is it beautifully written, but it's also full of gold information about eating, creating, and experiencing food.
Maybe you hate reading for fun, and that’s okay — I don’t have to agree with you (just know that I am judging you). If you’re reading this article, you probably care a lot about having a spiritual experience with food and literature, so please for the love of all things beautiful, check out these quotes from Sweetbitter, and if these tickle your fancy, read the book. I wish I could force you all, but the Internet hasn’t invented that yet.
Use this article as a break from your hectic day of classes. Perhaps drink some tea whilst enjoying these gorgeous quotes, but either way, take a break and let them sink in slow like honey.
A Dive Into the Literature...
1. “You will develop a palate. A palate is a spot on your tongue where you remember. Where you assign words to the textures of taste. Eating becomes a discipline, a language-obsessed. You will never simply eat food again.” (3)
As someone who eats grilled cheese and Amy’s canned soup for two out of three meals, this sounds pretty damn dreamy. This gives me crazy hope that some day, after college, I will get a real job and be able to afford cultivating my palate2. “Taste, Chef said, is all about balance. The sour, the salty, the sweet, the bitter. Now your tongue is coded. A certain connoisseurship of taste, a mark for how you deal with the world, is the ability to relish the bitter, to crave it even, the way you do the sweet.” (17)
Food metaphors for life, man. You are made up of every experience you’ve ever had, so learn to enjoy and accept the bad with the good. Easier said than done, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind.
3. “Don’t strangle the bottle, my love.” (157)
This is in reference to opening a bottle of wine, and if you’re like me, you haven’t yet developed those specific arm muscles (S/O to my dear friend, Nia, for always helping me in this crucial department).
4. “I find it impossible to do anything without investing in it.” (158)
I feel like you really shouldn’t do anything without investing in it. Otherwise, what’s the point? If you’re uninvested, you’re just wasting your time. I think its easy, in college especially, to feel like being uninspired or disillusioned is the norm, but this is your reminder to invest wholly in what you're doing or to quit. If you're uninvested, you probably weren't enjoying it anyway.
5. “What else am I doing? I’m learning about food and wine and terroir and how to pay attention.” (162)
I loved this quote because sometimes it’s okay that you aren’t doing what everyone else is doing. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel inferior because you have a different life plan. Also, I don’t think enough people pay attention (let alone know how), and it’s so important.6. “There are so many things to be blasé about: your youth, your health, your employment. But real food — gifts from the ocean, no less — is not one of them.” (208)
Who would have thought you could be blasé about your employment? Seems pretty difficult to be blasé about something you don’t have . . . yet. Honestly, though, every adult I think I’ve ever spoken to about the future or life after college has said don’t worry about it too much, it’ll all work out. You can be blasé about your life, but be intentional and appreciative about the food you put in your body at all times.
7. “Its not hard to like these foods once you open your mouth to them: the anchovies, the trotters, the pigs head terrines, the sardines, the mackerel, the uni, the liver mousses and confits. Once you admit that you want things to taste like more or better versions of themselves — once you commit to flavor as your God — the rest follows.” (243)
As a former picky eater, this especially struck a chord with me. Food is like art — it tastes excellent and looks beautiful, but you can appreciate it for its unconventional tastes as well. Sometimes art makes you angry, and now that’s my favorite kind. Food should be appreciated for what it is in the same way.
If you enjoyed reading these quotes, you will love the rest of book. I cannot recommend it more highly, so seriously please give it a read for me. It will only enhance your life.