In this collection of 20 essays-including a number of recipes-by some of the country's finest writers, food is the central player in memories both exquisite and excruciating. Food isn't just a gustatory pleasure; it is the stuff of life. At its best and most memorable, a meal becomes a story-and a story becomes a feast. In this anthology, Richard Russo relates the celebratory day he and his wife spent eating their way through haute Manhattan-and departing utterly famished. Steve Almond recounts the gleeful daylong preparation of a transcendent lobster pad thai dish. Sue Miller reveals that after a lifetime of practical cooking, she is finally fed by a man who presents food as an offering, made just for her. Aimee Bender ponders her lifelong envy of what everyone else is having for lunch. Expertly compiled and edited by Douglas Bauer-including pieces by Amy Bloom, Peter Mayle, Jane and Michael Stern, Ann Packer, Andre Dubus III, Michael Gorra, Elizabeth McCracken, Michelle Wildgen, Claire Messud, Henri Cole, Margot Livesey, David Lehman, Michelle Huneven, Lan Samantha Chang, and Diana Abu-Jaber-this unforgettable collection presents food as education, test, reward, bait, magnet, and, most of all, gift. Gathered here are meals that sate our most complex palate, the appreciation of life. From the Trade Paperback edition.