Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food and Love is the memoir of a woman who founded a company that sells dulce de leche based on her grandmother’s recipe and has created a business around it. She also provides business consulting to folks who would like to launch a business in the food industry. Each chapter is centered on a particular food item and ends with a recipe.
Josephine Caminos Oría grew up straddling two cultures as an American and an Argentinian. Her family moved to the United States but maintained their properties in Argentina. The first part of the book focuses on her life in Pittsburgh though her family travels to Argentina often. The second part focuses on her romance in Argentina. After a minor heartbreak, she goes there for a while and decides to stay because she has fallen in love with the manager of her family’s ranches. The last part focuses on her marriage and founding her business and begins in Argentina and ends back in the states.
I was very disappointed in Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food and Love. Most of that was based on how very unlikeable the writer is. Coming from a life of immense privilege, Caminos Oría manages to feel sorry for herself a lot of the time. She can’t join the country club her boyfriend is a member of but lives right on the 7th hole and is a member of another country club. She seems to think her family has to struggle when they own nine ranches, an apartment in Buenos Aires, a house in Miami for vacations, and their house in Pittsburgh.
She spends far too much energy lamenting her break-up with Tripp who merely committed the crime of breaking up with her before she figured out how to break up with him. She seems like she lacked the capacity to be unattached because she had a lucky escape.
She also claims that a ghost haunted her life. In the end, we find out who it is and it beggars belief that in a family that holds on to everything over the generations, she never saw a picture of her ghost who was so pivotal in signaling the direction her life should take. This was described as magic realism, but it’s not. Not even close.
One thing I did like. Caminos Oría is not a food snob. Her family ate mushroom sandwiches on white bread of the store-bought smooshable variety. However, for a memoir of food, I wanted more than fourteen recipes.
How I made it business memoirs do not interest me, especially coming from someone with so much unacknowledged privilege. Life and love memoirs are more interesting, but the struggle wasn’t real. The parental disapproval was bizarre and not very credible unless her family were complete class snobs, but it was her mother, not Caminos Oría, who made the cook serve the same food to the ranch manager and his brother.
I also have to say she maligns the cook and her husband for falsely accusing her then-boyfriend of stealing cattle without acknowledging that he and his brother stole eggs from her and her husband and were caught. She thinks it amusing, but perhaps they sold eggs and the theft of “extra eggs” was significant to them. The cook and her husband thinking the farm manager might be stealing is not far-fetched when he stole from them. That she thinks stealing from the cook and her farmhand husband is funny is just another example of her unexamined privilege.
By the end of the book, I heartily disliked Caminos Oría even though she was the one telling her story. Her blindness to her many advantages, her frequent self-pity, and the ridiculous ghost just made me roll my eyes.
The struggle wasn’t real.
I received an ARC of Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food and Love from the publisher through LibraryThing.