Picks and Pans Review: Travels with Alice

updated 01/29/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/29/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Calvin Trillin

"I've always thought that when a family travels abroad its members settle into some identifiable roles," notes the author who determines that his ID would read something like "He looks for things to eat." Indeed, that could well be the subtitle of this book, which follows Trillin in his gustatory quest, sometimes alone, sometimes in the company of his wife, Alice, and their two daughters.

A trip to France has a detour down the Champs-Élysées to ferret out the best fast-food hamburger. Trillin's fantasy is that the French, with their fondness for filling out forms in triplicate, will respond to an order of a Whopper, shake and fries with a demand for "Granmuzzer's maiden name."

In Italy, Alice embarks on a search-and-seizure mission for the best gelati. Meanwhile, Trillin has replaced his Guide Michelin with I Ristoranti di Veronelli. Because Trillin doesn't speak Italian, this presents some difficulties. It takes him days to realize that "parcheggio" is not a cheese but a parking lot.

In Barbados, Trillin imagines what life in the Caribbean might be like with an Italian West Indies: a lush vacation spot green with garlic plants known as Santo Prosciutto. Funny as Trillin is—"Well, this was educational," he notes after a mortification-of-the-flesh meal in Barbados—there is a frustrating sameness to the pieces in this collection. It is perhaps best savored by those who share his passion for the pleasures of the table. For others, Travels with Alice will be rather disappointing fare. (Ticknor & Fields, $18.95)

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