Sunday, September 5, 2010

Spoon Fed

I admire Severson's approach to food writing, a mix of social, political, cultural, and economic reporting, all of the things I'm interested in when it comes to food. I also like what she has to say about professional food tasting early in the book, how it is all about setting a baseline, eating things side by side so you can really tell the differences (yet respecting that sometimes, it's what you had at home that always tastes good. I'm that way about peanut butter. I've tried lots of fancy brands but always end up back at Skippy and Jif.).
The subtitle of the book is "How Eight Cooks Saved My Life" although I think it would have been more accurate if it referred to how they taught her or exemplified for her some life lessons, as Kim had already saved herself from substance abuse, and most the lessons she learned (patience, perserverance, being yourself) aren't exactly earth-shattering. But in her career as a food writer, she's been exposed to some of the biggest names in food, and she certainly has learned from them.

Marion Cunningham, James Beard's longtime assistant and the author of Fannie Farmer Cookbook, The Breakfast Cookbook, and Cooking with Children taught her that in food and in life, it's never too late to start over.

Alice Waters (who everyone knows I'm crazy about, despite being obsessive at best and perhaps self-rightous at worst) taught her perserverance and patience.

Ruth Reichl, the somewhat infamous editor of the now defunct Gourmet magazine inadvertantly taught her to compete only with herself.

Marcella Hazan, the author of several Italian cookbook taught her to accept what comes her way.

Rachael Ray (who I'd like if only I could get past the cutesiness) taught her to be true to herself.

Edna Lewis, the grand dame of southern cooking, taught her to cherish the family of her own making.

Leah Chase, the famous cook from Dookie Chase in NOLA taught her the power of prayer.

Finally, Kim's own mom taught her that what's done is done.

The only thing I disliked was that 240 pages of widely leaded lines didn't seem like enough to give much detail about the cooks Severson profiled (and you KNOW she has to have some more juicy tales to tell) as well as her own story, so both seemed a little thin.

The blessing and curse of reading this is that it makes me want to get back in the kitchen, spatulas a-blazing. But as the mother of a demanding one-year old and the wife of a semi-employed thirty-something, I have neither the time nor the money to cook the way I'd like. A new mother herself, Kim wrote about having a similar problem. But if I were to write about what Kim Severson taught me, it's food's power of connecting families and creating memories. And I know that's what, one day, Evelyn will say I taught her.

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