A senior editor at Knopf reflects on her long love affair with food and cooking, with friends and family—and with writing about them all.
Jones has had a distinguished editing career. Early on, she urged Doubleday, her employer at the time, to publish The Diary of a Young Girl by unknown Anne Frank; at Knopf, she introduced the world to cooking mavens Julia Child, Claudia Roden and Marion Cunningham among others. Jones begins her memoir at home (her mother hated garlic), then moves gracefully forward, recounting an early trip to Paris that revealed to her the glories of cooking and eating. She soon met and married her husband of nearly 50 years, Evan Jones, who grew to share her passions. Many of the most tender moments in this most tender of narratives involve their elegant choreography in the kitchen. The author would eventually meet and befriend the world’s most celebrated cooks and bakers (James Beard appears here regularly), and she soared to a spectacular career. Of course, there were problems and failures and losses: She recommended a series of cookbooks that bombed; she struggled with the sometimes cantankerous writers (including a contretemps with Marcella Hazan concerning yeast); she lost her husband in 1996 and faced for the first time in a half century a lonely kitchen—but not for long, as her vivacious grand-niece soon appeared. Jones offers some insider’s detail—Beard kneaded bread with one hand; beaver tail is tough to penetrate—and appends a wonderfully eclectic list of recipes (brains with a mustard coating, anyone?), but it’s regrettable that she does not always prepare her sentences as well as her sweetbreads. Clichés (“fell on deaf ears,” “tough nut to crack,” “crowning moment”) appear with alarming regularity throughout and affect her prose in the way a single bad egg affects an otherwise fabulous omelet.
Affectionate, passionate and informative, but lacks the deep reflection of the finest memoir.