When the starving peasant, Ugo DiFonte and his eleven-year-old daughter Miranda are snatched from their farm by the despot Duke Federico Basillione DiVincelli, Ugo thinks life can't get any worse. He is sadly mistaken. The Duke orders Ugo to be his new foodtaster, a hazardous job made even more so by the Duke's many enemies.
Ugo quickly acquaints himself with the tools of his profession: poisons, antidotes, and every type of cuisine. Thus equipped, and with his own much needed wit, imagination, and, most of all, coraggio (guts), he attempts to survive a series of deadly intrigues, all the while trying to protect his strong-willed daughter from her own adolescent desires and the lustful cravings of powerful and dangerous men.
Veering from sumptuous descriptions of the food Ugo must taste but cannot enjoy, to lavish portraits of the court and its residents, Ugo's first person narrative gives us a finely detailed account of the High Renaissance from a peasant's perspective. He also shows us the little seen underbelly where poverty, disease, and cruelty are the order of the day.
Filled with moments of tenderness, unexpected humor, and painful candor, The Foodtaster is the story of a man rising to the occasion, and in doing so, finds his true purpose in life.