Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life

Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life

by Kim Severson
     
 

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A memoir sharing a lifetime's worth of lessons from a generation female cooks.

Somewhere between the lessons her mother taught her and the ones she is now trying to teach her own daughter, Kim Severson stumbled. She lost sight of what mattered, of who she was and who she wanted to be, and of how she needed to live her life. It took a series of encounters

Overview

A memoir sharing a lifetime's worth of lessons from a generation female cooks.

Somewhere between the lessons her mother taught her and the ones she is now trying to teach her own daughter, Kim Severson stumbled. She lost sight of what mattered, of who she was and who she wanted to be, and of how she needed to live her life. It took a series of encounters with female cooks-including Marion Cunningham, Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, Rachael Ray, and Marcella Hazan-to reteach her the life lessons she had forgotten, and many she had never learned in the first place. Some were as small as a spoonful, and others so big they saved her life-at any measure, the best lessons she found were delivered in the kitchen.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this frank confessional memoir, Severson, food writer for the New York Times since 2004, attributes her culinary confidence to the tutelage of eight maternal figures, from the legendary to the not-so-famous. Moving from Alaska, where she wrote for the Anchorage Daily News, to San Francisco to be a food writer for the Chronicle, Severson quits her destructive habit of excessive drinking, and when she first interviews Marion Cunningham, the beloved California food writer, the two share their similar fears and vulnerabilities. Severson's refrain that “I was a fraud and an alcoholic and I was scared to death I would fail” runs through this narrative like a dirge, while her successive culinary acquaintances reflect her insecurities: Chez Panisse chef Alice Waters represents an admirable, however “ridiculously uncompromising” model of perseverance; Ruth Reichl, her intimidating predecessor at the New York Times, reminds her of the leader of the “popular girls” at school into whose realm she never fit; and Southern food writer Edna Lewis's unconventional living situation with the young gay cook Scott Peacock inspires Severson to recount her own difficult early years of coming out as a lesbian in the face of her family's disapproval and discomfort. Some of the portraits verge on the fawning (e.g., Rachael Ray has a “charisma that is as God-given as a star pitcher's right arm”), but Severson's goal of finding “a connection” to her Italian mother dying of Parkinson's rings brave and sincere. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
A salmagundi of memoir, cookbook and self-help bromides by New York Times food writer Severson. Gradually delineating her many troubled years, the author writes about how she recognized and accepted her lesbianism, struggled with alcohol and substance abuse, survived fractured love affairs and coped with feelings of personal insufficiency. She made transformative job changes-from Alaska to San Francisco to New York-and tried to understand her ambivalence toward her own family, a complex attitude that ignites some of her somewhat sophomoric epiphanies near the end of the book. Severson punctuates her journey with stops to reflect on some iconic cooks who influenced her. "My heroes," she writes, "are women who never abandoned the kitchen. They use cooking as a source of strength." Each segment ends with a relevant recipe. Among the notables she visits, and reveres, are Marion Cunningham and Alice Waters (in the Bay Area), Ruth Reichl (New York), Leah Chase (New Orleans), Edna Lewis (Atlanta) and-perhaps surprisingly-Rachael Ray ("I mean, who doesn't like to feel a little close to a celebrity?"). Severson begins and ends with her mother, who emerges as a lodestar as the text progresses. Throughout, the author is a fiery advocate for the importance of home cooking and family meals. Cooking for, and with, those you love, she writes, is one of life's great pleasures. The recipes range from gumbo to sour cornbread. Though Severson characterizes herself as a hard worker, she did not work hard enough on her diction, which leaps back and forth from cliche ("a New York minute") to treacly Wayne Dyer-isms ("The most valuable thing I have is who I am"). Too much sugar, not enough salt.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594487576
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
04/15/2010
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.92(d)
Age Range:
17 Years

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What People are saying about this

Mario Batali
"Among the handful of American food writers with both real wit and truth in their bag, New York Times writer Kim Severson stands out as the new standard for delicious literacy. This book is an essential read in the new literary category of food writing and is a perfect hybrid of story and emotion."
Isabel Gillies
"These pages are marbled with all the wonderful food that Severson writes about famously well, but it is Kim's own stories of her family, jobs, challenges and triumphs that got me. All of them are so funny, engaging, moving and open, I was immediately endeared to her and wished she was sitting my kitchen, talking and making lunch. This book will linger on my bedside table for a good while as I know I will want to read it again."--(Isabel Gillies, author of Happens Everyday)
From the Publisher
"Poignant and beautifully written."
-Entertainment Weekly

"[A] delightful memoir, a combo platter of life lessons, dishy profiles of her mentors and gustatory edification (with recipes!)."
-People (4 stars)

"A poignant story told with Severson's trademark humor and open-armed love of family and friends. Grab a few tissues, it's that sweet. If you're in need of life lessons, you'll find some to suit you. Spoon Fed pays homage to some remarkable women and whether Severson believes it or not, she is one, too."
-St. Petersburg Times

Meet the Author

Kim Severson has been a food writer for The New York Times since 2004. Previously, she was a food writer and editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, where she received four James Beard Foundation Awards and the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

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