on February 2nd 2016
Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye's decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether. A disturbing, yet beautifully composed narrative told in three parts, The Vegetarian is an allegorical novel about modern day South Korea, but also a story of obsession, choice, and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.
For our August book club, the NYC Ladies of Fine Dining and Fiction read The Vegetarian by Han Kang. We held our discussion at Blossom on Columbus, a popular vegan destination on the Upper West Side.
As for the book, I will say that I was in the minority, but not alone, in simply not liking it. Truth be told, I hadn’t even finished it in time. Though it was a very short book, I found myself unable to sit down with it for more than 15-20 minutes at time. Though I expressed to the group that I wasn’t liking the book at all, I resolved to reserve final judgement and keep an open mind until I finished the book, which I did the following day. Finishing the book only made me sad to have spent the additional time on it. I don’t want to complain too bitterly (Yes, I do. Hear my pain!) but there was nothing I liked about this book. I was unable to see what others see in this book; to me it was depressing exploration of a very ill woman’s life in a book containing only unlikable characters. While I understand that many readers felt a deep connection to the themes and imagery presented, this book just didn’t do it for me. I did wonder aloud if this book would actually be better in film though I think it would be somewhat artsy and strange, à la Black Swan. A few others agreed that it could be an interesting adaptation.
Moving on the restaurant, it was pretty good as vegan places go. The service was excellent, with our server even bringing us a sampling of the vegan goat cheese (not bad!!) so we could determine if we wanted to order entrees prepared with it. (I detest goat cheese!) A few of us shared a some appetizers. The Buffalo Risotto Croquettes were the stand-out for me. I ordered the special which was fried peppers stuffed with, among other things, the vegan goat cheese. The portion was huge. It was perfectly fried and rather tasty. That being said, I ate about half and realized that I was neither full nor wanting to finish. Of some import, the wine list offered several very well-priced options. It was decided that we would move on for dessert.
We strolled over to Osteria Cotta, conveniently located next door. It was our original intent to share some desserts but upon seeing the wood fired oven, smelling the delicious smells, and perusing the menu, we decided that a slice of pie would be just the thing! We weren’t disappointed. I had a slice of Tartufo and Brussels Sprouts and both were excellent. It’s also worth mentioning that they also had a really great, well-priced wine list. I would definitely not hesitate go back for a casual, delicious meal.
Though I didn’t enjoy the book and found dinner (#1) to be just okay, I still had an awesome evening! It’s all about the company!!
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