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 Painter, poet, and pastry chef Ring uses her dual experience as a struggling artist and struggling chef as a basis for this ambitious autobiography, but it is marred by too many themes and unsophisticated writing. Living in New York City and waiting on tables to support herself while she pursued her art, Ring was unhappy, unfulfilled, and barely making ends meet. She decided to use her baking skills, learned in the kitchens of the strong Jewish immigrant women in her family, to change her ``survival job'' into something less demeaning and abusive than she felt waitressing to be. So begins her journey into the kitchens of New York's finest restaurants and a world where she could use her creativity and her heritage to find personal and professional fulfillment. On top of her own story, Ring layers the stories of her grandparents, glimpses into New York's restaurant scene, her romance with another chef/artist, mounds of walnut lore, and some favorite recipes. The unfortunate result is an undigestible and overwritten mix--often engaging but ultimately too unweildy for Ring's limited powers of expression. Her most glaring literary error is her injudicious use of baking similes; ``A book is like a cake,'' she begins her acknowledgements, and there is hardly a page after that doesn't contain at least one similar platitude: ``Summer in the city is as hot and heavy as overworked bread dough, too thick to rise and too tight to roll. No one is dancing. But they are working. Just because the tar is melting in the street like fudge over a double boiler doesn't mean that anybody's getting the day off.'' Which explains why this book collapses like a soufflÇ that's been beaten to death. (illustrations by the author, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-553-09664-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1996