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The Lady, the Chef, and the Courtesan


The Lady, the Chef, and the Courtesan

Who hasn't wished for the wisdom of the ages to be bestowed upon them in one fell swoop? Who hasn't thought that there must be some secret key that would make life easier, if only they knew what it was? Who wouldn't give a considerable amount of money in exchange for the knowledge that would smooth their way and land them on the path to success?

Pilar Castillo has not necessarily wished to receive knowledge in just these ways, but knowledge is what she finds in a beautiful white brocade box containing three black leather bound journals, each one based on a different aspect of a Latin American proverb advising a woman to be a lady in the living room, a chef in the kitchen, and a courtesan in the bedroom. The journals were written by her recently deceased and much beloved maternal grandmother, Gabriela, and they impart their own brand of wisdom from a life led not as she would have wished it but as society dictated.
Born and raised in Venezuela and reared amongst a myriad of unquestioned traditions, Pilar finds that life in America has altered her attitude and perspective toward her traditional upbringing. Culture shock is a mild description for the emotions Pilar experiences when she returns home to Venezuela to attend Gabriela's funeral and finds life in Venezuela much the same as when she left. She is the one who has changed.

While she appreciates the beauty of the land and the people of Venezuela, she can't help comparing Rafael --- her jilted fiancé whose magnetic charm, good looks and the security he could provide are overshadowed by an elevated opinion of himself common in Venezuelan men --- to her current American boyfriend Patrick, who tugs at her heartstrings and moves her to a plethora of new feelings but who has not felt the need for a strong commitment.
She compares the women of Venezuela to those of America and wonders how on earth the Venezuelan women accept the traditions and social mores that keep them confined in their roles as pampered and protected objects. Yet at the same time, Pilar reveres the attitude they maintain toward themselves as women.

As she searches for her identity and what she wants out of life, Pilar is touched by the struggles and triumphs of her grandmother. Through her journals, Gabriela manages to leave a legacy of wisdom and encourages Pilar to throw off the expectations of others and live her life as she sees fit, unfettered and unbound by family expectations or the traditions of her past. The journals also reveal that Gabriela had secrets, secrets unknown to even those closest to her.

THE LADY, THE CHEF, AND THE COURTESAN is a heartwarming story and an interesting look at a culture that differs vastly from that of modern day America. While some women today can be glad to be free of the expectations that restrict women in other countries or in times gone by, this book may leave them wondering if their search for freedom has cheated them, to an extent, of the beauty and mystery of being a woman in another time and another place.

Reviewed by Amie Taylor on January 22, 2011

The Lady, the Chef, and the Courtesan
by Marisol

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2003
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Rayo
  • ISBN-10: 0060530421
  • ISBN-13: 9780060530426