M.F.K. FISHER, JULIA CHILD, AND ALICE WATERS

CELEBRATING THE PLEASURES OF THE TABLE

Pedestrian mini-biographies of three women who are household names among members of the Cuisinart set. Although Reardon (Oysters: A Culinary Celebration, not reviewed) clearly esteems her subjects, all of whom she met while preparing this book, her narratives lack the necessary spark to make them more than the sum of their many — and not always interesting — details. While she records meetings among the women, she does not weave the three biographies into a coherent whole exploring the US culinary scene. Instead, she follows M.F.K. Fisher from youth through three husbands (material about her menage a trois with husband number one and future husband number two made it into The Gastronomical Me), the Depression-era beginnings of her writing career, and friendship with Julia Child, whom she met as a co-contributor to a book on provincial French cooking. Child's career took off while she lived in Paris, where she met Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, who wanted to produce a "big book" introducing American audiences to French cooking. Joining in with the willingness to work and the enthusiasm that later endeared her to television audiences, Child was instrumental in shaping what became the landmark Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The least appealing portrait is that of Alice Waters, who comes across as self-absorbed. Converted to fine dining during a student trip to France, Waters tried, on returning to Berkeley, to persuade fellow activists there to spruce up their menus, arguing that even striking French communists were discriminating eaters. With determination, she and her mostly novice employees made a success of their imaginative restaurant in Berkeley's "gourmet ghetto," and by the time The Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook was published in 1982, Waters was, as Reardon notes, "So In, We Could Die." Strictly for the adoring fans of these culinary celebrities. Others will find it indigestible.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 1994

ISBN: 0-517-57748-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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NUTCRACKER

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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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

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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