Cover image for The lady, the chef, and the courtesan
The lady, the chef, and the courtesan
Marisol, 1964-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Rayo, 2003.
Physical Description:
239 pages ; 22 cm
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According to a Latin American proverb, in order for a woman to discover her power over men, she must learn to be a lady in the living room, a chef in the kitchen, and a courtesan in the bedroom. After perfecting the grace and elegance of each, a woman will ultimately understand her own potential in life, and the command she has over everyone around her, including herself.

When Pilar is left her grandmother's legacy books, she not only discovers what she is missing in her own life but also discovers the secret life her grandmother carried with her to her grave.

Bound in black silk, the three books teach the sacred beauty rituals that South American women have followed for centuries, the rules of social etiquette every young woman must master, and delicious recipes to seduce men -- recipes that can teach the strong-willed Pilar how to be the perfect lady, wife, and lover.

As Pilar reads through the diaries, she slowly begins to discover the importance of tradition and how to incorporate the secrets into her life as an independent, professional woman. And finally, perhaps -- with her grandmother's wise words floating in her mind -- she will find the courage to follow her heart, wherever it may lead.

Weaving together the story of a modern woman with that of a grandmother's time-honored traditions, The Lady, the Chef, and the Courtesan is a compelling novel of history, seduction, love -- and what it truly means to be a woman.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Pilar has arrived home for her grandmother's funeral in Venezuela, a far cry from the liberating winds of Chicago, where her career and the man she has left behind are sweet reminders of the freedom she has found in the U.S. At home, the obligations of a woman in her social class still remain, and Pilar greets her former intended, a man of means and importance, with apprehension as the pressure from her family to marry him mounts. Pilar's grandmother has left her a legacy of diaries, and their timing could serve to save Pilar from the hollowness of social decorum. The diaries' shocking secrets unwrap the mysteries of the corset and the dainty magnetism that shapes the allure of the South American lady. Social diction, the joys of the palette, and heart-pounding intimacies in the privacy of the bedroom suite enrich this novel with luscious sensuality, dripping with the erotic fruits of passion and the ancient art of being a woman. --Elsa Gaztambide Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

When Chicago journalist Pilar Castillo returns to her native Venezuela for her beloved grandmother Gabriela's funeral, she and her mother are shocked to see a man they do not know at the service. Who is he, and why does no one in the close-knit family recognize him? The answers lie in a packet of Gabriela's diaries, her legacy to Pilar. Divided into sections corresponding to the South American proverb that a woman must be a lady in the living room, a chef in the kitchen and a courtesan in the bedroom, Gabriela's writings encourage her granddaughter to follow her heart and be true to her passions, and tell the story of Gabriela's own failure to do so by ceding to her wealthy father's wishes, forsaking her true love and marrying the man society dictates she must. Pilar herself is wavering between two suitors-the dashing Rafael, her family's choice, and Patrick, her irreverent photographer boyfriend in the States. Pilar's and Gabriela's stories are markedly different in tone and quality. While Gabriela's story is musical and sensually written, painting an enticing picture of Venezuelan society in the '40s and '50s, Pilar's is heavy-handed and clumsy, patiently explaining her culture as if to somewhat dim-witted readers-the priest comes to dinner "in keeping with a common practice in some South American homes"; Pilar has onyx eyes, "a common trait in Venezuelan women"; the differences between America and Venezuela lie "beneath the surface" and one cannot "grasp [them] merely by watching television." The past/present framing of the story is ungainly but, like the mangoes that provide the impetus for Gabriela's supremely erotic final chapter, the sweetness is within. 6-city author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Brilliant, wealthy, beautiful Pilar, a transplant from Caracas to Chicago, is agonizing over her choices: should she remain in Chicago, where she is a successful career woman with an engaging, sensitive lover, or return to her smothering, upper-class family and an arranged marriage in Venezuela? Pilar's dilemma is the perhaps too-simplistic frame of the novel, but its soul is the story of her grandmother, Gabriela. When Pilar returns to Caracas for Gabriela's funeral, she finds that Gabriela has left her three sealed diaries. Pilar reads her grandmother's accounts of her arranged marriage, which was unhappy and passionless; a wild, yearlong affair; and, subsequently, a respectable and not unsatisfying life. Pilar learns secret beauty rituals, re-creates seductive recipes, and reflects on a life that had to be lived according to a rigid code of etiquette. During Pilar's grief and reflection on the truly amazing woman her beloved grandmother was, she ultimately comes to understand the choices she must make in her own life as a modern Latina. First novelist Marisol was born in Venezuela but has lived her adult life in the United States, where she has had a successful career in business. A likely possibility for book groups, this work is recommended for popular fiction collections.-Mary Margaret Benson, Linfield Coll. Libs., McMinnville, OR (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Lady, the Chef, and the Courtesan Chapter One Secrets of the Living Room I will first share with you a few stories that capture the nature of a lady. The nuns at the San José de Tarbes School for Girls imprinted on me from a very early age an exquisite code of civility that has served me well in every social situation I have ever encountered. Common courtesy is formally known as etiquette. Etiquette is a lot like art. While it can take many forms, depending on the surface on which it will ultimately be displayed, all truly great art is founded on the same underlying principles. The Carmelite nuns took manners so seriously that I often thought civility must be second in importance only to religion. The code of conduct we were taught in school covered every challenge imaginable, from sitting in a chair properly to hosting a party for an ambassador. What I aspire to pass on to you through these stories is more modest in scope, but it will accomplish much in shaping your life as a lady. There are, of course, perfunctory rules of protocol that you must endeavor to learn and put into practice, I trust that your mother will have made sure you learned those at the appropriate time. Etiquette is actually a very simple skill that requires little more than the ability to put oneself in someone else's place and to observe what is needed of one in any situation. Think of it as a way of living inspired by thought fulness, consideration, and respect for others and for oneself under any circumstances. To this day, I can hear the Mother Superior admonishing me for not "sitting in curves." She would tap me gently on the shoulder, look at me with a smile in her beady eyes, and say, "Gabriela, you could improve your posture. A lady always sits in curves." Even as I was being taught the strict tenets of good society in school, I was simultaneously learning about native beauty rituals at home. It is this very combination of modern civility and primitive lore that makes South American women so captivating. In the pages that follow, I hope to honor both our beguiling traditions and the gentle manner of the women who showed me how to move majestically through the world. If you apply the principles set out in these stories, mi querida, you will save yourself from having to experience many unpleasant things. First I will reveal to you our native beauty rituals and explain the art of seductive conversation, the meaning of courtship, the importance of good society, and your influential role as the mistress of the house. Once you have mastered the art of being a lady, I will give you a taste of the kitchen, so you can learn the recipes that stir a man's desire. As you indulge your senses in the essence of what it is to be a chef, you will discover what makes some women successful in the kitchen and most others not. Finally, I will entrust to you the key that unlocks the bedroom door. With this you may gain access to a world that men long to enter. Seduction and submission will tempt you, but behind closed doors, you will discover the difference between courting mere desire and satisfying ravishing lust. Although these rules guided my life and often provided me with comfort, they also brought me great pain. Eventually, from a retrospective vantage on an entire life's experience, I acquired an equal respect for the rules that were meant to govern my actions and the forces that took them away. This is why I have chosen to pass on to you what I know of each. And should you be fortunate enough to have a daughter, it will be your duty to see to it that these gifts are in turn handed down to her. Con mucho cariño, Tu nana uno: YAMILA Yamila was a mestiza. She grew up in Canaima, a beckoning place in the middle of the Amazon where nature yields an unfamiliar bounty and where the native Yanomarni Indians and the Spanish conquistadores once intermingled to produce the most primeval beauty. Canaima is also home to the black puma, a cat whose predatory gaze forgives no prey and to whom many ritual dances are dedicated in hopes of appeasing its spirits. As if the bounty of the Amazon forest were not enough to lure the senses, Yamila's homeland is also blessed with the tallest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls, whose waters descend proudly and majestically as if from heaven. The most extraordinary trait of el salto Angel is not its height, which is impressive enough, but the enormous pool below, where its rapid waters feed furiously into the Churun River, a tributary of the Caroni. It may be such awe-inspiring natural surroundings that instill in us South American women our almost cultlike reverence for beauty. La belleza is the name given to the scrupulously cultivated sensual attitude that we are taught to nurture from an early age. As the Spanish aristocracy began to settle in Caracas after the Conquista, it begat a social class that was to be known as the criollos, or mantuanos. The latter name for these Venezuelan-born descendants of the Spaniards referred to the mantas, or drapes, that their women wore over their dresses to cover themselves. Over time, some members of the ruling class interbred with the indigenous population; their offspring were labeled mestizos. The ethnic majority of the Venezuelan population was and still is identified as mestizo. The remainder is known as indigena, or Indian. This smaller group lives predominantly in the Amazon region and, as a discrete entity there, has maintained its traditional, national, and regional customs as well as its language, Papiamento. When she was still a young girl, Yamila, as was customary, was brought to Caracas, where a family from the capital was expected to educate her in exchange for her services as a housemaid ... The Lady, the Chef, and the Courtesan . Copyright © by John Marisol. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from The Lady, the Chef, and the Courtesan by Marisol All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.