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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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