The Story of Clementine Paddleford, the Forgotten Foodwriter Who Chronicled How America Ate
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Biography of the Kansas-born journalist who built an ahead-of-the curve career traveling the world to report on food and the people who cooked it.

Before Clementine Paddleford (1898–1967), food writing lacked the joy, whimsy and sophistication we now associate with it, contend the authors. Former Saveur editor Alexander and Kansas State University archivist Harris, an authority on the school’s Paddleford collection, believe that their subject’s primary goal was to address American home cooks’ concerns while enlivening the social history of the foods she tasted. To this end, she ventured onto a submarine and into Joan Crawford’s apartment, as well as the kitchens of countless homemakers known to her through written correspondence. The authors emulate Paddleford’s endeavor to connect cooking to the lives, traditions and personalities of real people. The biography doubles as a cookbook; it’s peppered with recipes tested for publication just as they were in Paddleford’s day, each tied to a moment in her career the same way she connected each recipe to a story. Alexander and Harris paint an affectionate portrait of the eccentric writer, an ebullient yet imposing individualist and charismatic adventurer. Undergoing a throat-cancer-induced tracheotomy at age 33, Paddleford covered the button she pressed to speak with a signature velvet choker necklace and decided to assume that her jarring voice was memorable rather than off-putting. In an era when far fewer women went to college or aspired to professional careers, the ingredients in her recipe for success were tireless enthusiasm, self-confidence, independence and ambition. She was completely herself with no apologies, rather than muffling her individuality to become more marketable. The authors cite Julia Child and Rachael Ray as Paddleford’s heirs.

Rich, flavorful and spirited, like its subject and the cuisines she chronicled.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-592-40389-9
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Gotham Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2008