Charlotte Au Chocolat: Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood

( 6 )

Overview

Like Eloise growing up in the Plaza Hotel, Charlotte Silver grew up in her mother's restaurant. Located in Harvard Square, Upstairs at the Pudding was a confection of pink linen tablecloths and twinkling chandeliers, a decadent backdrop for childhood. Over dinners of foie gras and Dover sole, always served with a Shirley Temple, Charlotte kept company with a rotating cast of eccentric staff members. After dinner, in her frilly party dress, she often caught a nap under the bar until closing time. Her one constant ...

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Charlotte Au Chocolat: Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood

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Overview

Like Eloise growing up in the Plaza Hotel, Charlotte Silver grew up in her mother's restaurant. Located in Harvard Square, Upstairs at the Pudding was a confection of pink linen tablecloths and twinkling chandeliers, a decadent backdrop for childhood. Over dinners of foie gras and Dover sole, always served with a Shirley Temple, Charlotte kept company with a rotating cast of eccentric staff members. After dinner, in her frilly party dress, she often caught a nap under the bar until closing time. Her one constant was her glamorous, indomitable mother, nicknamed "Patton in Pumps," a wasp-waisted woman in cocktail dress and stilettos who shouldered the burden of raising a family and running a kitchen. Charlotte's unconventional upbringing takes its toll, and as she grows up she wishes her increasingly busy mother were more of a presence in her life. But when the restaurant-forever teetering on the brink of financial collapse-looks as if it may finally be closing, Charlotte comes to realize the sacrifices her mother has made to keep the family and restaurant afloat and gains a new appreciation of the world her mother has built.

Infectious, charming, and at times wistful, Charlotte au Chocolat is a celebration of the magic of a beautiful presentation and the virtues of good manners, as well as a loving tribute to the author's mother-a woman who always showed her best face to the world.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Silver writes of her Cambridge, MA, childhood spent in her parents' restaurant, Upstairs at the Pudding, which shared a building with Harvard University's famed Hasty Pudding Club. Anyone familiar with the restaurant business knows how all-consuming it can be. This charming memoir is full of warm anecdotes of relationships with the many colorful characters the author encountered during the nearly 20 years she spent with her mother in the business. The Pudding became famous for its atmosphere as well as its remarkable cuisine—as Silver's mother always said, "The richer, the better." The book is full of mouthwatering descriptions of the dishes created for the Pudding, from the dessert Charlotte au Chocolate (for which the author was named) to the red pepper soup her mother was famous for. VERDICT This chronicle of life in Cambridge and a young girl spending her hours among adults is recommended for readers who enjoy family memoirs and those interested in the restaurant business. [See Prepub Alert, 8/8/11.]—Elizabeth Rogers, CEF Lib. Syst., Plattsburgh, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Memoir of a childhood spent at the legendary Harvard Square restaurant Upstairs at the Pudding. Silver brings back to life an era when Harvard Square wasn't filled with the soulless plate-glass windows of national banks--when local businesses were chaotic, working on trade, a little dusty, yet full of human spirit and character. The book will no doubt enjoy a prominent place in the windows of the Harvard Coop, and fans of Upstairs, a local institution that closed in 2001, will likely enjoy the backstage view of the beloved restaurant. As a memoir, though, the book is lacking. The author provides many lighthearted stories about long nights spent amusing herself in the restaurant, but she rarely re-examines the events in the light of adulthood. Silver gives equal attention to her youthful party dresses and her emotional inner life, with a slight edge to the party dresses, while significant events, such as court dates or divorces, are mentioned in passing. The author presents her stream of anecdotes in a straightforward way, rarely offering critical distance or narrative context. For example, Silver drops a description of an electrifying moment in her burgeoning sexual awareness in the middle of a chapter about mice in the restaurant. It's almost as if the author doesn't want to fully share herself with readers. Like its namesake dessert, a confection--enjoyable but lacking substance.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594486500
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/5/2013
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 716,014
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Charlotte Silver grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before attending Bennington College in Vermont. She studied writing at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and has been published in The New York Times. She lives in New York and Boston.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

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(2)

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 20, 2012

    WONDERFUL BOOK! Witty, moving, gorgeous writing.

    I love this book! It's witty, vivid, funny, and so moving - about a girl growing up in a very unconventional way: spending every night at her mother's posh restaurant, located above a club connected to Harvard. It's about having a rich (in event and experience, not money) , unconventional childhood with a bold, brassy mother and a Bohemian father - and it's written with wonderful verve, insight, and wit. The cover, alas, does not do justice to the wit and intelligence - and the wonderful writing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2013

    I thought it was contrived and read like it was made up.

    I thought it was contrived and read like it was made up.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 19, 2012

    The prologue held such promise. I read a lot of memoirs and thi

    The prologue held such promise.

    I read a lot of memoirs and this just didn't do it for me. Lacking character development , let alone exploration of the characters in her life makes this book one-dimensional. Where is the life lesson? What am I as a reader / audience supposed to take away from this?

    As fiction, I might have given this a better review. As a memoir, it's disappointing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews

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