Crazy in the Kitchen: Food, Feuds, and Forgiveness in an Italian American Family [NOOK Book]

Overview

During Louise DeSalvo's childhood in 1950s New Jersey, the kitchen becomes the site for fierce generational battle. Louise's step-grandmother insists on recreating the domestic habits of her Southern Italian peasant upbringing, clashing with Louise's convenience-food-loving mother; Louise, meanwhile, dreams of cooking perfect fresh pasta in her own kitchen. But as Louise grows up to indulge in amazing food and travels to Italy herself, she arrives at a fuller and more compassionate picture of her own roots. And, ...
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Crazy in the Kitchen: Food, Feuds, and Forgiveness in an Italian American Family

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Overview

During Louise DeSalvo's childhood in 1950s New Jersey, the kitchen becomes the site for fierce generational battle. Louise's step-grandmother insists on recreating the domestic habits of her Southern Italian peasant upbringing, clashing with Louise's convenience-food-loving mother; Louise, meanwhile, dreams of cooking perfect fresh pasta in her own kitchen. But as Louise grows up to indulge in amazing food and travels to Italy herself, she arrives at a fuller and more compassionate picture of her own roots. And, in the process, she reveals that our image of the bounteous Italian American kitchen may exist in part to mask a sometimes painful history.
Louise DeSalvo is a writer, professor, lecturer, and scholar who lives in New Jersey. Her many books include the memoirs Vertigo, Breathless, and Adultery; the acclaimed biography Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on her Life and Work; and Writing as a Way of Healing. Recently, she edited Woolf's early novel Melymbrosia and coedited The Milk of Almonds: Italian American Women Writers on Food and Culture.
A Book Sense 76 pick in hardcover
"Louise DeSalvo packs about six courses of emotional wallop into her slim memoir...[A] tough, courageous story, one of hard-won wisdom and memory."-San Francisco Chronicle
"Illuminate[s] the difficulties of reconciling past and present...DeSalvo celebrates the table of her ancestors by savoring her own rediscovered history."-New York Times Book Review
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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
… through recording the past, through her visits to the countryside where her grandparents were born, through the peace she makes with her mother and grandmother (both now dead), DeSalvo celebrates the table of her ancestors by savoring her own rediscovered history. — Lee Thomas
Publishers Weekly
Professor, lecturer and scholar DeSalvo successfully blends catharsis and storytelling in an affecting story of immigrants in America. DeSalvo (Vertigo; Breathless; etc.) grew up in New Jersey, the daughter of first-generation Americans and the granddaughter of Italian emigres who spent much of their lives without much food-or happiness. Her culinary-centered essays feature the genre's requisite characters: the old widow who dresses in black every day, the drunken grandfather, the young mother who "tries to put her Italian past behind her" and serves her kids toasted cheese on white bread that sticks to the roofs of their mouths. Yet DeSalvo's chronicles are nothing like the many memoirs of growing up Italian-American that more closely resemble slapstick comedies. Rather, these recollections are tinged with pain and beauty. She writes of the depression her mother felt after never knowing her birth mother and being raised by her stepmother, a mail-order bride from Italy. She's frank about the constant bickering ("I'll break your head!" "I'll break your legs!") that dominated much of her childhood. She's up-front about her southern Italian heritage, which classified her grandparents as "dark" people whose "whiteness was provisional." And she addresses the irony of purchasing expensive organic produce when her grandparents sometimes subsisted solely on bread soaked in wine. Still, the memoir isn't all melancholic; dry wit and pride temper DeSalvo's prose, as she attempts to become "a person aware of inequities faced by Italian Americans in a country that has not yet fully equated the Italian American experience with the human experience." (Jan. 17) Forecast: With a five-city author tour of the Northeast, local New Jersey readings, a long list of acclaimed books by the author and solid reviews, this erudite but accessible book could have legs. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Employing her crusty step-grandmother's crusty Italian bread instead of a madeleine, memoirist and biographer DeSalvo (Adultery, 2000, etc.) adds to her remembrance of an operatic past. She offers not one interlarded Ruth Reichlian recipe. The cuisine in DeSalvo's childhood home wasn't the loving Italian sort with lots of tomato meat gravy on the vermicelli. Chef Boyardee, Dinty Moore, Chung King with Minute Rice, and Dugan's pastry were the staples of her troubled mother's menus, served with vitriol for Mom's old-country stepmother. Clad in classic black, the old lady glared and muttered in dialect. Family dialogue consisted of lusty curses punctuated by sudden lunges. It was Italian New Jersey in the 1950s, when old men descended to basements to make wine or, in winters, to sit near the warmth of the furnace. DeSalvo tells of strong men and steadfast women from Puglia and Campania, Sicily and the Abruzzi, superstitious and wary in a new land. She depicts a culture of put-upon wives and fierce husbands, of immigrants only reluctantly and never fully assimilated. The flavors of the old world were ever redolent, despite the Dugan's white bread. The author's family lore is marked by intergenerational warfare, recrimination, regret, hatred-and love, too. Beneath the crust there were, after all, tenderness and nourishment. The revelations mount, and lessons of universal significance are drawn from trips to the vegetable markets and journeys to Italy. DeSalvo finally finds pleasure in food, in tasting, and in preparing artfully prepared dishes. The dramatics of her youth, it seems, produced a superior, dedicated writer and a determined, devoted cook who may go a little crazy in the kitchen. Asin life, past tense unites with present in this juicy, tender text, seasoned with fear, loathing, and love served Italian style. Suitable for literary ladies, sensitive guys, and others, too. Agent: Geri Thoma/Elaine Markson Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596917668
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 12/1/2008
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 417,446
  • File size: 336 KB

Meet the Author


Louise DeSalvo is a writer, professor, lecturer, and scholar who lives in New Jersey. Her many books include the memoirs Vertigo, Breathless, and Adultery; the acclaimed biography Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on her Life and Work; and Writing as a Way of Healing. Recently, she edited Woolf's early novel Melymbrosia and coedited The Milk of Almonds: Italian American Women Writers on Food and Culture.
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Table of Contents

Prologue: Wild Things 1
Part 1 Cutting the Bread
The Bread 9
The Other Bread 12
Convenience Foods 16
Making the Bread 19
Kneading the Dough 24
The Knife 30
Slicing Onions 32
Breaking the Dishes 38
Home Ec 42
Part 2 Wounds
Keepsakes 57
Slingshot 64
Handwork 73
Dark White 84
Passing the Saint 95
Food on the Table 105
Holy Oil 117
Part 3 Chasing Ghosts
Hunger 131
Puglia Diary 139
Big Shot 145
Nightmare (Without Food) 155
Food Fights 160
The House by the River 167
Appetite 179
Part 4 Communion
Courtship (with Food) 195
Matchmaking 206
Respect 214
Feeding the Dead 222
Wiping the Bowl 236
No More Cooking, No More Food 240
Tearing the Bread 250
Epilogue: Playing the Bowl 253
Acknowledgments 256
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Strong smart women

    Ever wonder why your southern Italian grandparents and their
    Chilldren are so different from your other Ittalian friends?
    Louise DeSalvo explains the indignities endured by the land laborers in ITaly and also here in America.
    I cannot do it jutice.
    It is a da










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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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