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Monday August 20th 2018

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Self-Help Never Sexier

“Eat, Pray, Love” Opens in Theaters this Weekend

It seems international travel is the new American highway. Kerouac’s road has all but been replaced with Eurail and foreign bistros, no doubt crammed with Americans who are “finding themselves.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise then that travelogues are amassing astounding popularity: the one of the moment being “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Released in 2006, the book made leaps and bounds up the New York Times Best Seller list. This weekend, the film starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem will be released into theaters. Self-discovery has never been sexier.

I read “Eat, Pray, Love,” when I lived overseas. Therefore, it’s hard for me to discern whether I liked it because it was good, or because it was in English. At the time, I was living in a vastly isolated village without running water or cafes or the slightest chance of finding Alfredo sauce on anything. I remember being painfully envious of Gilbert’s romps around the world — of her journey of self-discovery that drove her to spend a year exploring “the art of pleasure in Italy, the art of devotion in India, and in Indonesia, the art of balancing the two.”

Oh, the jealousy. I desperately wanted to find an excuse to not like this book. I finished it in three days however, relishing the escape it provided. A book that devotes entire chapters to meditation in an Indian ashram yet idolizes food? A tale that encompasses three continents, countless men and an ungodly amount of airline miles? Who could deny its appeal? Upon self-reflection I too will admit that damn it, I really liked Gilbert’s book — grandiose self-help references and all.

Though travelogues that have the basis of “self-discovery” as their motive often spiral into self-indulgent narratives, Gilbert does a good job of keeping that inclination at bay. She’s also a very good traveler, and conscientious that she shouldn’t inflict her Western perception of cultural norms onto foreign cultures.

Since its publication, it has become quite the fad to have book club parties replete with themed foods for this book. And while I generally cringe at the thought of themed meals, I can see the allure, especially when it comes to this book. Like “Julie and Julia” or “Like Water for Chocolate,” this is a foodie novel and one that begs to be read within walking distance of the refrigerator.

So if you’re planning to flock to the theaters to see the beauty of Italy and the lush greenery of Bali, perforated by Javier Bardem’s abs, then consider indulging in these dishes beforehand.

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