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A dazzling showcase for Fussell’s delicious ability to “taste...words with the kind of pleasure that turns cooking fires...

The idiosyncratic food writer harvests some of her best work in a savory collection that doubles as a memoir and declaration of faith.

The first section, “Mirrors,” begins with autobiographical pieces that barely mention food, only gradually moving from vivid portraits of fraught family life into a detailed list of the staggering quantities of food “My Son the Bodybuilder” must ingest daily to fuel the sculpting of his physique. “Nostalgia: Salad Days” and “Love and Mayonnaise” move into more familiar Fussell (Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef, 2008, etc.) territory of what we eat and serve as social and generational markers. “For me, food is a physical, passionate, revelatory window on the world, much more revealing than sex,” she writes—and that’s a strong statement, coming from someone whose earthy, sensuous appreciations of particular meals and ingredients can be positively steamy. The profiles in “People” pay tribute to precursors like M.F.K. Fisher and Craig Claiborne, who first stretched the boundaries of food writing, as well as to such innovative cooks as Alice Waters and Marcus Samuelsson. “Places” consists largely of relatively conventional travel pieces, all of them expert and readable but with less of Fussell’s genre-smashing flair. “Cultures” highlights her marvelous ability to mingle culinary, social, and regional history to deepen our appreciation of America’s “hodge-podge” cuisine. She evokes the bygone self-service cafeterias, “the great class leveler of the ’20s and ’30s,” and the boozy postwar cocktail culture, which eased the awkward interactions between battle-scarred veterans and the cloistered young women intent on marrying them, because that was what they had been raised to do. “Corn Porn” and “Romancing the Stove” again explore the food-sex connection, which is transformed into a philosophical credo in “A Is for Apple,” the collection’s moving final piece. “The language of love,” she affirms, “springs from every creature’s first love, food.”

A dazzling showcase for Fussell’s delicious ability to “taste...words with the kind of pleasure that turns cooking fires into the fires of love.”

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61902-785-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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