Books in Translation

Soufflé by Asli Perker

Souffle Translated from the Turkish

Five words from the blurb: cook, family, freedom, loss, people

Soufflé is a multi-generational story, packed with a passion for cookery. Set in New York, Paris and Istanbul, the novel looks at family relationships and shows how cookery can help to heal emotional wounds.

The book has three main protagonists: Lilia, who is struggling in an unhappy marriage; Ferda, who is looking after her elderly mother; and Marc, who is grieving for his wife. All three discover that food can bring joy back into their lives.

I initially struggled with the number of characters, as the peripheral ones were fully developed and I didn’t realise who the central trio were for a while (I don’t read blurbs when I start a book, for fear of spoilers). But after about 70 pages everything clicked into place and I connected with them all. The emotions felt realistic and I developed a deep sympathy for their problems.

The novel was packed with beautiful descriptions of food. I especially loved the multi-cultural aspect, as many of the flavour combinations were unfamiliar to me. I found myself writing down the names of new dishes; longing to taste the things mentioned.

No, there was no extra ingredient in the bread Ferda baked; her friends were wrong about that. The delicious taste came from the organic wholemeal flour she used, which wasn’t purchased from the supermarket but came straight from the countryside. Her tarhana soup smelled different, of course, because the pepper she used it in had come from Urfa, one of the Eastern cities. What made her meat stew more delicious than other people’s was the lime tree leaf she always added to it. Anyone who ate this stew relaxed instantly and then went on to discover the love in their souls.

I also liked the way the characters struggled with the cooking, showing the mistakes they made and how they improved with practice. It inspired me to try cooking soufflés – I’ll be interested to see if I have better luck than the characters in the book!

My only complaint was that the different settings of the book often felt the same. There was little difference between the scenes set in Turkey and those set in New York. I’d have liked to have seen some more atmosphere, so it was instantly obvious which country the characters were in.

This book shares many similarities with The School of Essential Ingredients and I think anyone who enjoyed Bauermeister‘s book will appreciate this one.

Recommended to people who enjoy reading about cookery.


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