Poppy Z. Brite, |
(Three Rivers Press, 2004)
Liquor is a funny, fast, charming sojourn in the New Orleans food scene. The story follows Ricky and G-man (best friends since fourth grade, lovers since 17), two cooks on the front lines of the restaurant business. After a nasty encounter with the restaurant manager at his job, Ricky comes up with a brilliant concept for a restaurant: every dish is made with liquor, from appetizers through desserts.
Ricky quits his job and joins G-man cooking late-night meals in a friend's bar and experimenting with liquor-based meals. With the encouragement of Lenny, a successful chef who sees his younger self in the two friends, their dinner specials become a hit with the locals who truly enjoy good food. In New Orleans, where food and alcohol are the lifeblood of the city, a restaurant that combines the two is bound to succeed, especially with Ricky and G-Man's talent at cooking and Lenny's savvy financial backing.
Of course, the road to restaurant ownership isn't without its bumps and potholes. Minor infractions of the law become possible huge problems, zoning headaches and a cocaine-aggravated vendetta from Ricky's ex-boss are realities that show these bright young men the pitfalls of restaurant-ownership. Still, it's a dream they know is worth pursuing.
Brite's writing is amazing, filled with description that made my mouth water and filled me with longing to visit New Orleans. Her descriptions of the recipes were so vibrant that I could almost taste them, and the vivid portrayal of the city and all its idiosyncrasies made me long to visit. The city is as much a character in the book as the protagonists, and is as well drawn as the relationship between G-man and Ricky. She doesn't skimp on the minor characters either, from Terrence the dishwasher to crazed ex-boss Mike, and all the people along the way. I particularly enjoyed the grumpy old man who complains about the restaurant bringing in a "bad element."
I found Liquor a treat to read, and an excellent step forward along Brite's literary path. I hope she continues to tell the stories that she wants to tell, rather than filling publishing company and fan orders for more of the sexy horror that she wrote at the start of her career. She has new and exciting tales for us, and I'm looking forward to them.