Brans (Take Two, 1989, etc.) turns here to culinary autobiography but lacks the personality or style to make a unique mark. The author proceeds from Mother's good plain cooking (``her meringues rose sky high'') to cooking on her own with Betty Crocker, then with James Beard's Hors d'Oeuvres and CanapÇs (``Beard taught me that cream cheese goes with everything''), Julia Child (``I cuisined up a storm....Quel fun''), and The Silver Palate pair, about whom she gushes for a long chapter. Brans often strays from eating to characterizing the various stages of her life, such as the time she spent as a happily married ``beatnik,'' but she never gets beyond generalization--and in one sentence she's unaccountably divorced and remarried...and on to more eating adventures. Between accounts of her own experiences are anecdotes of other people, collected through a questionnaire she sent out to acquaintances (``What memorable experiences did you have at the table as a child?''), but they too fail to sparkle in the reading or add up to any point. The author's ostensibly mildly ironic tone throughout seems modeled on that of Jane and Michael Stern, but it hasn't their sly wit or sensibility. From her corny declaration of a childhood love for Wonder Bread (``Our bread of choice was Wonder, and it was Wonderful'') to her closing raptures over lunch at Bouley (number one in Zagat) during last summer's $19.92 special, Brans fails to entertain with any fresh observations on food or foodies or to rise above the generally banal level of the genre.