Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ah, the Foodie Memoir

Thanks for all your comments and support last week. That was a low point for me and I actually thought about deleting the personal part of the post but decided in the end to let me be me. Starting on Friday I had backup - Daddy - and we all went to Iowa where I was able to see how a holiday meal for guests can be prepared entirely from processed food. Three varieties of canned soup were involved.

Speaking of food, if you know me, you know I love food, I love cooking, and I love reading about it. The food memoir is one of my favorite genres and I'm always on the lookout for what's new.

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard

This is the story of an American Woman who has married a Frenchman and how she acclimates to France and her new family. This is one of those books that is easy and breezy to read, fun, cute at times, yet in the end sort of forgettable. It was fine, if you know what I mean. Throughout the book the author muses about her lack of clear career goals for herself, and it seemed as though someone suggested to her 'hey, food memoirs are popular, Americans in Paris stories are popular, you should write a memoir!', thus a career in writing blossomed. The food is not necessarily central to the book and there weren't any recipes that I was drawn to make. Reading over this, it seems like I'm being pretty critical of this book. It's more that I feel ambivalent about it, and you might love it whereas I thought it was okay.

The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove

Cathy Erway has taken a different direction with her food memoir. Erway was in her early 20's and living in Brooklyn when she wanted to start a blog. She came up with the idea of eating only food prepared at home - a huge anomaly in New York City - for an extended period of time. This book is based on that time and on her blog as well, though from looking at her blog my sense is that this book is not just reprinted posts, but a new way of looking at this period in time.

The Good: I found the subject matter of this book interesting and Erway's voice is appealing. She's intelligent and curious, and I appreciated how involved she became with the local food scene. She cooks both off the cuff yet still enjoys much more involved preparations and techniques.

The Not as Good: I felt old when I was reading this book! Erway's youth really shows in her lifestyle and behavior. There are several instances that involve heavy drinking and getting 'wasted'. She writes about the trials and tribulations of dating. Erway sometimes finds herself in situations in which she was perhaps over-extended. Dinner parties where dinner was not served until 10pm. Preparing food for hundreds of people yet not testing your recipes or picking up ingredients until the morning of. It's crazy, but I was actually getting stressed out reading these accounts.

Overall, this was a fun and good read, but I'm left wondering if I'm not the target audience for this book. (And folks, I'm under 40.) There were a couple recipes I've flagged to try and I was curious enough about Erway to check out her blog.

P.S. Don't forget to sign up for my giveaway - see below!


bermudaonion said...

If that book made you feel old, I can only imagine how it would make me feel since I'm over 50!

Nan said...

If you like the American in France idea, I've read two that I LOVE! French Toast; and French Fried by Harriet Welty Rochefort. More here:


And geez, I didn't realize you were so young! Not even forty. I can barely remember. :<)

Les said...

You know, I love culinary memoirs, and yet neither of these books are tempting me in the least. Well, maybe Erway's--until I peeked at her blog. I didn't see a single photo that tempted me to read further and it all feels a little too commercial to me. Kind of like everyone's jumping on this Julie & Julia blog-to-book craze.

Maybe I'm old and cranky. I'm just a couple of years shy of 50! ;)

Claire (The Captive Reader) said...

Just reading your description of Erway's book stresses me out - who doesn't test recipes before cooking for guests!?! I'm an urbanite, 20-something myself, which I suppose would be the target demographic for this book, but I've always loved cooking too much to have any interest in eating out more than once a month. Still, I'm tempted to read the book, just so I can feel morally superior.

Andi said...

Cool! I love the food memoir. I think of the two I'm more interested in The Art of Eating In, though the author's attitude and lifestyle may have passed me by, too.

Staci said...

Honestly, if I had my choice I would eat out several times a week, but because that's just not smart $$$ I have to figure out the menu which at times becomes such a drag. I would love to read a book that made me want to gravitate towards the stove...heck, one that would make me want to kiss it!!

Loretta a/k/a Mrs. Pom said...

I picked up the latter book at Borders and was eager to read it. I thought it was a great premise. I was glad I skimmed through it before I bought it, however, because I had the same reaction. At one point she was making some meal that required outrageously intensive prep and super expensive ingredients and I wondered what was the point? Glad I saved my money!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I LOVE this cover, and I may have to give this book a try; thanks Tara.

Tara said...

Kathy, oh, you're young in heart!!

Nan, I've read and even own French Fried, and I really liked it. Would like to get my hands on French Toast.

Les, I can understand that and see what you mean about the author's blog. She definitely started blogging for a reason, you know. I sort of can't resist these kinds of books, they're easy to read and you never know when one is going to be amazing but so far last year's were better.

Claire, I know! Good for you eating in most of the time! There comes a point when one realized that the food we can make at home is better than 95% of what is out there.

Andi, it might just be me! I love food memoirs too - good ones!

Staci, hehe you are funny! Maybe you just need a really good cookbook with easy and tasty recipes. Will have to think on that one.

Loretta, so glad to see that you agree. And I saved my money too - thanks to the library!

Diane, I like the cover too and am glad this appeals to you!