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KITCHEN YARNS

NOTES ON LIFE, LOVE, AND FOOD

A full plate of heart and hearty eats.

In this culinary confessional from the acclaimed author, it’s less about the kitchen and more about the yarns.

Writing a compelling food memoir is a delicate act; the recipes have to live up to the memories they evoke. In the hands of prolific author Hood (Morningstar: Growing Up with Books, 2017, etc.), the stories themselves are the main dish—but the food still has to be delicious. “I grew up eating. A lot,” she writes at the beginning. “As the great food writer M.F.K. Fisher said, ‘First we eat, then we do everything else.’ That describes my childhood home.” From the kitchen of her Italian grandmother Gogo through her career as a flight attendant, a seemingly perfect American suburban existence, the death of a child, divorce, and fairy tale–like second chance at true romance, Hood recalls each moment through the meals she was preparing, recipes both great and, well, not-so-great. The good ones include her family’s traditional meatballs: “The secret to [the] meatballs is how you roll them, a skill my father could never master. Neither could I.” The bad ones include her father’s scrambled eggs made with sugar. Then there are the heartbreaking ones: the “doctored” ramen Hood makes on the anniversary of her 5-year-old daughter Gracie’s death (which she movingly chronicled in her 2008 book, Comfort). “It still hits me when I see seckel pears in the grocery store,” she writes. “Little blonde girls in glasses. Hear the Beatles singing ‘Eight Days a Week.’ The sharp stab of a memory rises to the surface out of nowhere.” But her ramen, featuring a poached egg, butter, and American cheese, helps. While some of the stories feel redundant, with repeated bits of history rephrased, when Hood is focused on her prose, it’s like a classic recipe—all the flavors sing.

A full plate of heart and hearty eats.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-24950-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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