Posts Tagged Memoir
Written back when food memoirs were not a genre, this book is a funny and fascinating recounting of the life of Ruth Reichl, whose formative years in food were based upon her mother’s atrocious cooking and Ruth’s job of keeping people from eating what her mother made for dinner parties.
Along the way toward adulthood, Reichl deals with her mother’s bipolar disorder, left with a series of housekeepers, family friends and even a French boarding school in Canada. By the time she’s in high school (and for stretches of time when she was nine years old), Ruth was left to fend for herself while her parents traveled, went to parties or pursued their own interests.
Friends and caregivers showed Ruth the wonders of good food, and the book is a journey through her education about how good food can be, how good life can be, and how she could overcome anything in her background to become her own person.
I read this book after receiving it from a friend, and I now include it with “Heat” by Bill Buford, “Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain, and “My Life in France” by Julia Child as one of the best chef memoir/biographies I have ever read.
But this? This is one of the best written memoirs of any genre I’ve ever read, in that it is raw, engaging, hilarious, moving and absolutely fearless. Gabrielle Hamilton describes her bizarre family, her derelict upbringing, her stumbling road to being a chef…all in graphically beautiful and lyrical prose that reinforces that she’s not like anyone else at all. In any way.
Her descriptions of the writer’s workshop small groups in college absolutely unraveled me with laughter. Her description of a reunion with her meddling mother gave me probably the hugest laugh I’d gotten from any book thus far. In fact, there were many times I woke my husband with my smothered and wheezing laughter while reading this book in bed.
And yet, there were parts of the book that so moved me I cried. Gabrielle Hamilton is a gifted writer and gifted chef, and happily, both gifts were equally on display in this book.
Meh. I thought a couple of the pieces were good, especially the one about him being a caricature artist, but the rest were rambling and didn’t do anything for me. By the time I got to the one about his prostate, I was ready to throw in the towel and when he opened the essay with permission for the squeamish to not read it, I took that as permission to not finish the book at all, with about 25 percent left unread.
Advance Reader Copy from publisher