WHAT THE MOUTH WANTS

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight - MEG NOLA

Mon­ica Meneghetti, Caitlin Press, Soft­cover $22.95 (192pp), 978-1-987915-35-8

ex­presses with elo­quent can­dor that while there are bound­aries and be­hav­iors to chal­lenge, oth­ers of flesh and blood are some­times best left alone.

Through swift, sensual chap­ters, Mon­ica Meneghetti’s What the Mouth Wants: A Mem­oir of Food, Love and Be­long­ing de­tails a life lived on many lev­els. The au­thor, part of a Cana­dian Ital­ian im­mi­grant fam­ily, is also bi­sex­ual. Her mem­oir fo­cuses on dis­cov­er­ing her own com­plex per­sonal iden­tity while main­tain­ing a unique ap­pre­ci­a­tion for her eth­nic back­ground.

A pas­sion for food vi­brantly col­ors Meneghetti’s rec­ol­lec­tions, start­ing from child­hood as she watches her mother chop herbs and gar­lic and stir simmering pots of mine­strone. The fam­ily cui­sine fea­tures gelato, risotto, cheeses, olives, home­made pasta, and steamed black mus­sels, their tightly clamped shells now open like “books left ajar,” al­low­ing “glimpses of pri­vate life.” Meals were not to be in­ter­rupted by phone calls or other dis­trac­tions, and while din­ner talk might flare into an­gry de­bate, the food was to be sa­vored with re­spect.

Meneghetti’s mother is another in­te­gral part of the story, her pres­ence solidly nur­tur­ing, with oc­ca­sional moods of vul­ner­a­bil­ity or vo­latil­ity. Be­yond the fam­ily ta­ble is the world at large, a place of un­cer­tainty but also ex­cite­ment and ex­plo­ration. Early on, Mon­ica senses that she’s dif­fer­ent, with writerly as­pi­ra­tions and in­tense crushes on both sexes. While as a young woman she sees her­self as a “geeky Ital­ian girl” who pur­sues re­la­tion­ships with men, her de­sires even­tu­ally lead her to bi­sex­ual and polyamorous in­volve­ments.

Meneghetti’s ul­ti­mate fam­ily unit will in­clude her male and fe­male lovers, the trio liv­ing to­gether in an open-minded, open-hearted ar­range­ment. New tra­di­tions are es­tab­lished, in­clud­ing new hol­i­day dishes in com­bi­na­tion with older recipes. Meneghetti re­al­is­ti­cally and rue­fully notes how she was not able to tell her fa­ther about her sex­u­al­ity, due to his fail­ing health and her con­cerns that he would see her as an even “queerer ver­sion of queer.”

What the Mouth Wants ex­presses with elo­quent can­dor that while there are bound­aries and be­hav­iors to chal­lenge, oth­ers of flesh and blood are some­times best left alone.

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