Staffer: Tara D. McKinney, correspondent.
What I read: "Evertaster" by Adam Glendon Sidwell.
Synopsis: Every dish his mother makes for Guster Johnsonville tastes disgusting to him, but everyone else in his family enjoys her cooking.
Frustrated by her son's rejection of her cooking and worried about him wasting away, she decides to take Guster into New Orleans to find something, anything he'll eat.
While in the city, Guster is drawn to a mysterious bakery with an equally mysterious and rather sickly pastry chef.
The pastries are the most delicious food to ever have passed Guster's lips (the complete opposite of the foul slops his mom serves).
As Guster savors tarts and cookies, the chef's health rapidly deteriorates right before Guster's and his mother's eyes, but just before he dies he gives Guster an ancient recipe - the most glorious taste known to man with the power to change the world.
A cult of crazy master chefs chases the Johnsonvilles around the world in order to get the recipe.
Guster discovers that he is not merely an extremely picky eater, but a legendary Evertaster, someone with a sense of taste so strong and precise that he can tell if there is just one drop of lemon juice too many in a batch of cookies.
The only way Guster can find relief from near starvation is to gather the ingredients and taste the ancient recipe.
Stats: Published by Future House Publishing, June 2012, 304 pages.
What I thought: This is not a book to read if you are trying to stick to a diet, but it is a perfect family read for the month of Thanksgiving as it is all about food, glorious food!
"Evertaster" is a children's book and would probably appeal to kids ages 7 to 12.
What I liked most about this book was that it took you on a trip around the world from the deep African jungle with sweet-toothed gorillas to the outskirts of Paris with a Martha Stewart-esque celebrity chef.
All the details about how the quality ingredients differed from the everyday versions of the same food were engrossing and enlightening.
The process of making Buttersmith's Gold versus regular old butter - what the cows eat, how the butter is churned and the affection lavished cows was a fun way to highlight the fact that the care that goes into food preparation is often what makes it taste great.
The author never comes out and says it, but it seemed to me that he was championing the organic and fair-trade movement or at least the idea that food is always more delicious when handmade from scratch rather than by an anonymous machine.
In regard to the attitude of cult of chefs intent on destroying all the subpar food in the world by bombing canned soup factories and so on, and only wanting to make food worth eating, Sidwell could be criticizing our society's current obsession with food.
What to eat and how to make it best from Cook's Illustrated recipes that require 20 ingredients and 30 different steps to Jaime Oliver overhauling U.K. and American school cafeteria food to pigs fed only acorns to insure the best quality ham to gluten-intolerance to whole grain goodness - the search for the highest quality ingredients continues, as does the growing complexity of food preparation.
The lengths people will go to obtain the freshest foods to make that perfect dish, or at least a reservation at a celebrity chef's restaurant, are incredible and over the top.
One thing I had mixed feelings about was Guster's relationship with his mother as affected by his picky eating.
As a child I was an extremely picky eater (I like to think it was because I grew up in a vegan household and was not allowed to eat things that other children ate like sugar and milk and meat) - everything tasted like wet cardboard or worse.
So the child in me could identify with Guster when he described one of the dishes his mother makes as, "slime; it was ooze; it was a dirty, pig-filled sack of nasty eyeballs, and it tasted like poo."
But as a mother with her own "evertaster," I can equally empathize with Guster's mom, Mabel.
There is nothing more frustrating as a mother than to have a child who simply will not eat, no matter what you make - and despite everyone else singing the praises of the dishes. There is a lot of emotional angst, guilt and resentment revolving around Mabel's cooking style and Guster's eating habits.
It's a common and unpleasant struggle that many families face.
Despite the fact that this aspect of the book stirred some unwanted reminders of the daily tug-of-war I face with my kids, two out of three of my kids loved Sidwell's book so much that they each read it several times and it made them both very hungry.
The plot reminded me a lot of the 39 Clues series, written by a collaboration of authors, in that there were several clues or codes or details that were usually solved by children.
All in all I recommend this book, especially to young readers and picky eaters - but eat something before reading or else expect to go on a wild binge while reading Adam Glendon Sidwell's "Evertaster."
What I'm reading next: "Garment of Shadows" by Laurie R. King.