A CHEF'S TALE

A MEMOIR OF FOOD, FRANCE AND AMERICA

Franey, recently retired from his New York Times and syndicated food column, looks back with clarity, precision, and considerable charm on his Burgundy childhood in a food-centered family; his rigorous training in Paris eateries (after leaving home and school forever at 14); and his American career as a French chef making his name in restaurant kitchens, newspaper columns, cookbooks, and television series. ``Anyone who has ever tried to cook well knows that about 50 percent of the job is focus, the willingness to concentrate,'' Franey notes. His own ability to focus on the details of food preparation combines with the specificity of his recollections to make his memoir solidly evocative. Still fresh in his mind's eye, it seems, are the fish he caught and cooked for family lunches when he was eight and even the ingenious devices he and his friends used to catch their prey. He recalls the elaborate dishes (including a boned, stuffed turbot soufflÇ) that, as a teenage apprentice, he ``felt I had to master if I was ever going to be anybody.'' And he still remembers his ``effervescent elation'' on entering New York harbor as a fairly lowly member of the hierarchy tapped to staff the French pavilion's kitchen at the 1939 World's Fair. Franey's independent nature informs his story's more dramatic moments: his surprisingly successful defiance of orders in the US Army during World War II; his resignation, after 20 years at New York's regal Pavillon restaurant, following a dispute with owner/manager Henri SoulÇ; his painful split with New York Times food man Craig Claiborne after years as an uncredited partner in Claiborne's restaurant reviews and recipe columns. (``I think about him all the time, even now.'') Franey has little to say about his marriage or his personal life in America, if he has had one apart from food and cooking. But his memoir of kitchens past is enlivened with anecdotes and personality sketches and peppered with authoritative parenthetical tips on culinary procedure. Unlike his more recent, eclectic ``60- Minute Gourmet'' entries, the 100 appended recipes, many tied to events reported in the book, are mostly French, though trimmed for current lower-fat standards. And he explains how the others are grounded in the cuisine he knows and does best. (Book-of-the-Month- Club Alternate Selection)

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-394-58600-X

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1994

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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