Fair Shares for All: A Memoir of Family and Food

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In this beautifully written, vividly rendered memoir, John Haney, Gourmet magazine’s copy chief, describes his family’s day-to-day struggles, from the twilight of Queen Victoria’s reign to the dawn of the third millennium, in London’s least affluent working-class enclaves and suburbs, including a place called the Isle of Dogs–and reflects on how his family’s affection for the past and the food they loved kept them together. In crossing the Atlantic–and with it the class barrier–John is left with deep feelings of ...
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Fair Shares for All: A Memoir of Family and Food

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Overview

In this beautifully written, vividly rendered memoir, John Haney, Gourmet magazine’s copy chief, describes his family’s day-to-day struggles, from the twilight of Queen Victoria’s reign to the dawn of the third millennium, in London’s least affluent working-class enclaves and suburbs, including a place called the Isle of Dogs–and reflects on how his family’s affection for the past and the food they loved kept them together. In crossing the Atlantic–and with it the class barrier–John is left with deep feelings of displacement and nostalgia for his Cockney roots. As he eats in some of New York City’s most expensive restaurants, he tries (and fails) to reconcile his new appetites with the indelible tastes of his youth–and the long-ago life that has continued to, and always will, define him. Peopled with unforgettable characters who find in even the greasiest kitchens the sustenance to see them through life’s hardships, Fair Shares for All is a remarkable memoir of resolve and resilience, food and family.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This colorful and heartfelt autobiography of Haney's family life and English heritage focuses on food, both as sustenance and as a vehicle to examine issues of class and identity. The culinary descriptions make for a mouthwatering and occasionally cringe-worthy scene-stealer at the author's boyhood home in Chipping Ongan, in the Essex, England, countryside, where "much was eaten... and surprisingly little said." Now copy chief at Gourmet, Haney penned the book following the 2003 publication of a personal essay for the magazine on the same topic. He has successfully mined three generations of his family, threading together vignettes from his parents' childhood experiences with his own, highlighting commonalities of financial struggles and alcoholism. Into these rather macabre topics, Haney's writing breathes new life with poetic details (he paints an autumnal drizzle as "the color of unwashed sheep"). Reminiscent of Roald Dahl's Boy, with a gastronomic bent, this memoir is insightful and evocative, expertly conveying the author's emotional connection to food. Having inherited a legacy of "sausages and sadness," Haney sees what he eats as representative of a choice between the working and upper classes, and family loyalties. One wishes for more action and fewer exhaustive culinary images, but to Haney, food is sometimes both the starring character and the action. Photos. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

After moving from London to New York City and eating in its finest restaurants, Haney, copy chief for Gourmet magazine, became nostalgic for the food of his youth-distinctly British fare from bacon sandwiches to spotted dick (a pudding with dried fruit) to whelks (sea snails). In this memoir, Haney revisits his childhood in London, describing his East End, working-class family in the 1950s and 1960s. Each of the book's three section titles mentions food: "High-Speed Burnt Toast," "Fake Coffee," and "Damage from Oily Chickpeas." Photographs of the author and his family are peppered throughout the book, much of which is based on interviews Haney conducted with various relatives. Developed from Haney's 2003 essay of the same title published in Gourmet , his memoir is recommended for public libraries.-Nicole Mitchell, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham Lib., Lister Hill

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal

This colorful and heartfelt autobiography of Haney's family life and English heritage focuses on food, both as sustenance and as a vehicle to examine issues of class and identity. The culinary descriptions make for a mouthwatering and occasionally cringe-worthy scene-stealer at the author's boyhood home in Chipping Ongan, in the Essex, England, countryside, where "much was eaten... and surprisingly little said." Now copy chief at Gourmet, Haney penned the book following the 2003 publication of a personal essay for the magazine on the same topic. He has successfully mined three generations of his family, threading together vignettes from his parents' childhood experiences with his own, highlighting commonalities of financial struggles and alcoholism. Into these rather macabre topics, Haney's writing breathes new life with poetic details (he paints an autumnal drizzle as "the color of unwashed sheep"). Reminiscent of Roald Dahl's Boy, with a gastronomic bent, this memoir is insightful and evocative, expertly conveying the author's emotional connection to food. Having inherited a legacy of "sausages and sadness," Haney sees what he eats as representative of a choice between the working and upper classes, and family loyalties. One wishes for more action and fewer exhaustive culinary images, but to Haney, food is sometimes both the starring character and the action. Photos. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Poignant, loquacious recollections of growing up in postwar, working-class Britain by Gourmet magazine copy chief Haney. Named for the Labour Party's winning slogan in 1945, this stylistically knotty memoir focuses on the Cockney relatives of the author's father, Denis Haney, a "grapher" (telegraphist) from London's East End. Denis relocated his family to suburban Chipping Ongar, 20 miles outside the city, but they were still eating the unappetizing fare of blue-collar Britons: Kippers, bangers and bacon sandwiches served as madeleines for young John, born in 1954. At the rare family outings to the East End's Isle of Dogs neighborhood, he was charmed by the rough, chain-smoking bonhomie (induced by hard drinking) of his father's siblings and extended kin. Plenty of food here too: Pickled onions, cocktail sausages "lined up like fatalities on stretchers," winkles, welts and prawns were the holiday delicacies at these functions, and the author rapturously devoured them all. Weekly excursions to South Woodford to visit his mother's father, a barely educated man who grew up in the London slum of Limehouse, yielded exciting, grisly tales of battle in World War I, as well as meals larded with Marmite spread on white bread. John was a bookish lad, and his ambitious, poorly educated mother had plans to inject culture into his upbringing, but he gradually and painfully became aware of class distinctions at the King Edward VI Grammar School and auxiliary military groups such as the Boys' Brigade and the Air Training Corps. Haney's reflections turn rueful with his emigration to New York to marry an American. He was far away for the deaths of his parents and various relatives, whose memories arouseacute homesickness. Though clotted with Briticisms, this keenly felt memoir will evoke tender impressions of childhood in patient readers.
From the Publisher
“Rollicking . . . altogether unforgettable . . . a book for any reader who appreciates artful memoir.”
–The Seattle Times

“An appetite, gluttonously documented . . . Haney makes frequent pit stops for his favorite foods. . . . They nourish him and feed the reader too. . . . [He] vividly captures a particular moment in history.”
–The New York Times

“An extraordinary book. The Isle of Dogs was filled with enormously generous characters whose lives were defined by the memory of hunger. As Haney describes their food he offers up an entire world, and it is not one you are likely to forget.”
–Ruth Reichl

“[A] colorful and heartfelt autobiography . . . The culinary descriptions make for a mouthwatering and occasionally cringe-worthy scene-stealer. . . . This memoir is insightful and evocative, expertly conveying the author’s emotional connection to food.”
–Publishers Weekly

“Poignant, loquacious . . . This keenly felt memoir will evoke tender impressions of childhood.”
–Kirkus Reviews

Fair Shares for All explores the complexity of social class and family life by looking at what’s on the table. This is at every moment so much more than a book about food, but the food, along with John Haney’s unsentimental eye for the past and his beautiful writing, sustains us.”
–Ann Patchett

Fair Shares for All does the best magic trick of all by giving the reader a front-row seat into someone else’s life. In this cleanly written, poignant, and at times very funny revisiting of his childhood, Haney has turned us from casual readers to devoted fans.”
–Jane and Michael Stern

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400062331
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/22/2008
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.47 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John Haney was born in the London suburb of Romford in 1954 and took a degree in classics at the University of London in 1976. In 1982 he moved to New York City, where he has been working in publishing for more than twenty years. He is currently copy chief at Gourmet magazine. He lives in Brooklyn.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

A cliff face of stilton
A Monstrous Bowl of Peanuts in the Shell     3
Kippers and Custard     29
Bottomless Bumpers of Port     50
A nice cup of tea and a biscuit
A Pipsqueak of Marmalade     63
High-Speed Burnt Toast and Fake Coffee     88
The Hasty Consumption of Pilchards     100
Cocoa and Corned Beef Sandwiches     114
Greasy Grub and Gliding     134
The Birthplace of Toad-in-the-Hole     150
A splat or two of all-devouring mustard
Damage from Oily Chickpeas     167
The Graying Purveyors of Haddock and Eels     184
A Nonconsolatory Splurge of Meursault     217
Drip-Dry Shirts, Spilt Milk, and Sugared Almonds     238
Epilogue: Ham and Cheese, Egg Salad, Ham Solitaire     261
Author's Note     277
Acknowledgments     281
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2008

    A reviewer

    I am relieved to see such a well-crafted memoir such as this appear on the market. 'Fare Shares for All' is a brutally honest, witty, and delicious memoir. Expertly crafted, I love how this author places two important subjects, food and war, side by side: 'Blank-faced pickled onions were drowning in vinegar. Skewered at the midriff, sqadrons of cocktail sausages were lined up like fatalities on stretchers. Bulking wedges of Cheddar sat at the back in the shadows of sandwiched ham, triangulations of pork and quashed bread that were shedding meltdown butter and a hint of sty.' Later, Haney's comic timing is impeccable: 'Mum never minced her words,' said Ray. 'Remember that really bad afternoon, Den? Daylight raid. September 1940. Windows blown out. Front door gone. Half the roof off. And what does she say? 'I'm not moving for that bastard Hitler. They'll never carry me out.' Yet Haney's unsentimental eye and ear for comedy is carefully measured, never coming off as cold, or snobbish. He has created a moving paean to his family haunted by class struggle and war.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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