Tamasin Day-Lewis has that most blessed and cursed of jobs: she's a food writer, with some of the world's most respected print publications on her CV. She has written for the Daily Telegraph, the US edition of Vogue, and Vanity Fair to name a few. She is also daughter to the Irish poet Cecil, and brother of the actor Daniel (Day-Lewis). And she is dating Rob Murray, of Manhattan’s finest cheese shop, Murray's.
Since her homes are in England and Ireland, her lifestyle is as glamorously intercontinental as it is studded with celebrities: she’s constantly jetting between rural Ireland and Manhattan, or heading off to meet her lover in romantic whirlpools like Venice.
Yes, it's irritating.
She is extremely Julie Andrews in the way only a certain class of Brits can pull it off: crisp and brisk and dead keen to tell, while still remaining annoyingly private.
Her new book,
Where shall we go for dinner?
Is a fusion of memoir, food and travel writing, peppered with recipes: a great thick 180-pager (including reference pages) about food and romance that yet manages to be totally lacking in sensuality. That's quite a schoolmarmish feat. The only time there's any real emotional power, is when she's talking about her son's a capella group’s journey to the world champs in New York.
Though the brilliant and the beautiful wander through her book, they remain just names. Day-Lewis is hopeless at connecting with the reader. It's a class thing, but unfortunately she comes across as self-satisfied: disingenuous in her modesty about her famous friends and fabulous life, and altogether rather abstract. One imagines this food diary – because that's pretty much what it is – being a wonderful memoir for those with a personal interest in Day-Lewis. For it to hold anyone else, you'd have to be pretty passionate about food.
Food writing comes with its own set of difficulties – straight descriptions get repetitive, while menu writers have overused many of the alternatives to the point of cliché. One feels for Day-Lewis as she tries to convey her enthusiasm for dishes and meals. She gets around the problem better than most, with a fresh perception – but oh, those adjectives and fanciful analogies are laid on with hand so heavy it's hard not to giggle. The Mary Poppins persona doesn't go with lush and purple prose.
"...I imagine little knobs of butter must have been dropped and stirred into the sauce to give it its polished black shoe-shine appearance and its plush, velvet richness; that the rosemary must have been infused cautiously into it and then withdrawn; but at this stage who knows..."
Having said all that, for the voyeuristic foodie, this book is often gobble-worthy.