Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Spiced

Whew! It's hot out there! A week ago we didn't need air conditioning, now it's in the 90s. Crazy.

My book club met last night to discuss The Gravedigger's Daughter by JCO. The response was not surprising. Two members didn't get much past 100 pages and no one that finished it was very impressed. Or impressed at all, really. We have mutually agreed to NOT read JCO again. Relief.

So, here are a few books that I've finished lately...


Spiced is Dalia Jurgensen's memoir of her life as a pastry chef. While I read a fair amount about food, I haven't read much in the chef-memoir vein, so this was new ground for me. Dissatisfied with working in an office, Jurgensen took a chance and went to cooking school and scored a great first-time-in-the-kitchen gig at Nobu in NYC. I loved reading about what fine restaurants are really like behind the scenes. It's pretty scathing back there - the saying 'if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen' proves true in the restaurant setting. It sounded crazy stressful having to deal with the hierarchy in the kitchen, the blatant sexism, the filthy bathrooms, and the long hours on your feet. Spiced also made me more aware of the business that goes on in terms of restaurant openings and closings and why chefs move around as much as they sometimes seem to. I enjoyed Spiced most when Jurgensen was writing about the actual food, the desserts that she prepared and how she came up with a menu for a particular restaurant. I was less interested in Jurgensen's personal/intimate life, and by the last chapters I had had enough stories of sexist men in the kitchen to last me a lifetime. Despite this, I would definitely recommend this book; Jurgensen has a chatty and personal writing style that really grabbed me and of course I loved the topic. One thing I realized is that as much as I enjoy cooking, cooking at a restaurant would not have been for me. Stressful, yes, but I enjoy trying new recipes and techniques, not preparing the same dishes all the time. Many thanks to Putnam for this review copy.

I was going to write about Laurie Halse Anderson's Fever 1793, but it's getting late and I'll leave it for another day...

8 comments:

Diane said...

I have this one too and have not had a chance to read it yet. Thanks for the great review.

jennysbooks said...

Great review! I'm always on the look-out for chef memoirs for my friend Laura, as she dreams of becoming a chef. But I don't want to dissuade her from it! What do you think - would this put you off, if that's what you wanted to do?

Seaside Book worm said...

I have a few books by Joyce Carol Oats, and I have not picked one up yet. Her books look a bit intimidating. I do have Grave Digger's Daughter. I think I will just give it to the library. Liked your review of spice. I read one memoir a few years ago about restaurants. In the beginning I liked some parts but after a while it became dull. I appreciate your review and post.

Samantha said...

I find looking through my library that when I read about food it's usually about it's method of production (Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, Felicity Lawrence), witty writer's talking about food oddities (Jeffrey Steingarten) or restaurant critics (Ruth Reichl). Like you said, working in a restaurant kitchen sounds stressful and I think that is why I avoid those tv shows like Masterchef too :-)

Tara said...

Diane, I hope you enjoy it - it's a fun and quick read.

Jennybooks, Thanks! Hmm, tough question. Well, I guess it did put me off, I mean, I'd never want to have that job! Having said that, if this is really what you want to do I guess it's good to know what you're getting into, so perhaps this would be good for your friend.

Seaside Book Worm, thanks for stopping by! JCO was intimidating for me, too, I think until I finally read her. I think her writing is pretty readable...just not what I want to read!

Samantha, I guess I just like all books about food! I am focused on food memoirs right now, it seems. I don't watch those shows either, it all seems needlessly stressful. I mean, my job is stressful enough, and we are trying to take care of people, not just feed them.

Alyce said...

I've never read any Joyce Carol Oates, so I guess I haven't missed anything. :)

I've never wanted to work in a restaurant because I like to take my time cooking, and restaurant cooking looks so stressful. The book does sound interesting though.

Staci said...

Spiced looks and sounds great!! I just finished A Homemade Life and totally loved that one. I may have to grab Spiced if I ever see in the library!

Tara said...

Alyce, I certainly don't think you've missed anything! I think restaurant cooking would take all the fun out of it for me.

Staci, this was a fun read! So, so glad you loved A Homemade Life - I am currently reading a similar book that I am really enjoying and will feature soon. Spiced from the library- good choice!