As in life, past tense unites with present in this juicy, tender text, seasoned with fear, loathing, and love served Italian...




Employing her crusty step-grandmother’s crusty Italian bread instead of a madeleine, memoirist and biographer DeSalvo (Adultery, 2000, etc.) adds to her remembrance of an operatic past.

She offers not one interlarded Ruth Reichlian recipe. The cuisine in DeSalvo’s childhood home wasn’t the loving Italian sort with lots of tomato meat gravy on the vermicelli. Chef Boyardee, Dinty Moore, Chung King with Minute Rice, and Dugan’s pastry were the staples of her troubled mother’s menus, served with vitriol for Mom’s old-country stepmother. Clad in classic black, the old lady glared and muttered in dialect. Family dialogue consisted of lusty curses punctuated by sudden lunges. It was Italian New Jersey in the 1950s, when old men descended to basements to make wine or, in winters, to sit near the warmth of the furnace. DeSalvo tells of strong men and steadfast women from Puglia and Campania, Sicily and the Abruzzi, superstitious and wary in a new land. She depicts a culture of put-upon wives and fierce husbands, of immigrants only reluctantly and never fully assimilated. The flavors of the old world were ever redolent, despite the Dugan’s white bread. The author’s family lore is marked by intergenerational warfare, recrimination, regret, hatred—and love, too. Beneath the crust there were, after all, tenderness and nourishment. The revelations mount, and lessons of universal significance are drawn from trips to the vegetable markets and journeys to Italy. DeSalvo finally finds pleasure in food, in tasting, and in preparing artfully prepared dishes. The dramatics of her youth, it seems, produced a superior, dedicated writer and a determined, devoted cook who may go a little crazy in the kitchen.

As in life, past tense unites with present in this juicy, tender text, seasoned with fear, loathing, and love served Italian style. Suitable for literary ladies, sensitive guys, and others, too.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2004

ISBN: 1-58234-298-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2003

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With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    


Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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