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From Barnes & NobleBarnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
In a restaurant family, you're never hungry; you're starving to death. And you're never full; you're stuffed. When you read Patricia Volk's wonderful memoir about her restaurant family, I can guarantee you won't be bored: You'll just be hungry -- no, starving -- for more.
Full of energy, love, and a few recipes (Mattie's Steak, Morgen's Seasoning Salt, and Mattie's Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Icing), Stuffed portrays the key moments in the lives of the Liebans, the Morgens, and the Volks, a New York Jewish family, from the turn of the century to the present.
An elegant writer, with two short-story collections to her credit, Volk chronicles the life of her family, not in any particular historical order but by family member, with several chapters apiece devoted to her father, mother, and sister. (This structure works so well you want to pass a law requiring all memoirs to do the same.) And how she can write. Here's a taste: "Our hallway was the color of ballpark mustard. The living room was cocoa, my mother's wall-to-wall, iceberg green. The floor of the lobby was maroon-and-white terrazzo like Genoa salami. When our elevator went self-service, the wood was replaced by enameled walls that looked like Russian dressing, the lumpy pink kind our housekeeper, Mattie, made by lightly folding Hellmann's mayonnaise into Heinz ketchup with a fork."
Compared to Volk's full-of-life family, most of our families look a little colorless. Every one of her relatives seemed to have an unusual claim to fame. Consider the following:
- Great-grandfather Sussman brought pastrami to the New World.
- Great-uncle Albert was the first man to stir scallions into cream cheese.
- Grandfather Herman, who went on to have 14 restaurants, was the first man to carve roast beef in a restaurant window.
- Grandfather Jacob Volk built his house on the land he won in a card game from Mayor Jimmy Walker.
- Her mother was a look-alike for Lana Turner.
- And her handsome father actually invented the Six-Color Rectractable Pen and Pencil Set.
The publisher's blurb on this book says that being with this family is "a trip to the spa, a balm to the soul, a double martini." Readers don't always trust blurbs, for good reason, but guess what? This time, it's absolutely right. (Fall 2001 Selection)