THE PASHA OF CUISINE
Saygin Ersin, Mark Wyers (Translator) Arcade Publishing (SEPTEMBER) Hardcover $25.99 (288pp) 978-1-62872-961-0
Saygin Ersin’s The Pasha of Cuisine delights with its aromatic language, scintillating narrative, and compelling characters. Here, a feast to satisfy even the most discerning literary palate awaits.
The cook—a protagonist who remains nameless until the final page of the novel—learns from an early age that he is a Pasha of Cuisine, a rare person in Ottoman lore capable of great, sometimes magical, culinary feats. The lone survivor of the slaughter of children resulting from a change in royal power, the cook is secreted away from the Imperial Palace by the Chef sfendiyar and handed over to Master Adem in the kitchens of the nearby House of Pleasure to begin perfecting his art. It is here that the cook falls in love with Kamer, a dancer. When Kamer is taken into the service of a powerful noble, the cook sets out on a journey to various other masters in order to reunite with his beloved.
Even for those unfamiliar with its features or history, the Ottoman Empire comes alive in the novel thanks to vibrant colors and mouthwatering smells. Despite the absence of a name, the cook is a fleshed-out character whose plight elicits empathy. A pair of brothers teach the cook the effects that heavenly bodies can have on food, and the Lady of Essences imparts her vast knowledge of spices. Such knowledge becomes a potent tool in the hands of the cook, in a way making him both a chef and a magician. These hints of magic add a fairy-tale flavor to the title. And Kamer, a possessor of a fierce cunning, is far from the helpless damsel who must be rescued.
Replete with charm and intrigue, The Pasha of Cuisine is a deliciously spellbinding adventure where food rivals, and may at times exceed, the power of love.