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Aug 1, 2006 12:43 AM

Which Biographies and or profiles?

I read the first Reichel book and was sort of entertained, the second tell all of affairs etc. I found disusting. A friend just reported that the new Gael Green auto-biography embarassed her, saying as should have the writer or anyone reading it. Wife of a Chef I found a bit whiny but in many ways amusing. I have just picked up Mimi Sheraton's new book, Eating My Words which I will start tonight. I have enjoyed Rhulman's books and Bourdains. Any favorites out there and why? Any you found pathertic and embarassing? Really I am not a prude, not with my appetite and sensual love of food, wine and cooking. But why oh why do some of these people need to embarass themselves in tell all print? Of one of the writers it was reported that the writer was totally indiscriminate in partners. If the opposite sex was capable the writer would have it. Is there a food collorary I am missing?

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  1. I loved Jacques Pepin's memoir because it was everything Ruth Reichl's wasn't-- reserved, straightforward, and modest. I found her two books unbearable, and her portrayal of her mentally ill mother unkind in the extreme. She was far too convinced of her own brilliance and her own victimhood. For this same reason, MFK Fisher occasionally rubbed me the wrong way, too-- although her prose is so much better than Reichl's that I can forgive her-- especially when she wrote about her dying companion in her later years. She had compassion for the people around her when she wasn't being self absorbed. (that said, I do like Gourmet better under Reichl, so I'm not a total hater.)

    Sheraton's book was too something, but not self conscious or congratulatory. I just couldn't get through it. I agree with you about Wife of a Chef.

    Bourdain's books, however, I like for their brashness. But again, he is humble and unafraid to make himself the butt of the joke.

    Not a memoir, but Elizabeth David's cookbooks are full of wonderful anectdotes that have me hooting with laughter.

    While lots of people bash Amanda Hesser, I actually find her writing to be self-deprecating and her recipes always work. I re-read Cooking for Mr. Latte recently, and appreciated some of the more twee columns in light of later columns where she recognizes her failings... to be willing to show how you've grown up like that is really brave.

    Susan Hermann Loomis' On Rue Tatin is a great cooking, france, family memoir that charts her start of her career and her life in france. Her stories about the farmers in her Farmhouse Cookbooks are also charming and earnest.

    I used to love Sarah Chase's stories in her cookbooks, but lately I've found her to be a bit too precious.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Notorious EMDB

      I agree with you about Hesser, On Rue Tatin, and The MFK Fischer books. The Reichel which was not a "tell all" sexploitation was enjoyable. What I really found disappointing was "Stand Facing the Stove" which was the biography of the Rombuers. I expected it to be much more entertaining than like someone's dry Phd dissertation. I did truly enjoy the Elizabeth David biography and the few about Julia Child too. Your reason's for liking Bourdain are mine too and I cannot remember the name of the book about how Keller got his start but that was a good read too.

      I should not try to start some of these things too late and too tired.

      If they could quit embarassing themselves and keep it the food. I am just on the opening pages of Sheraton's book. If I doze off i'll report back.

      Garlic and Sapphires is truly the only Reichel book I have liked . The firat as you said was cruel but ther were entertaining moments. The second should have been printed on toilet paper.

    2. Try Heat by Bill Buford. I'm halfway through and it's very engaging.

      1 Reply
      1. re: noeldottir

        Update: I'm finished and it's a *fantastic* book! Smart, funny, insightful, revealing, beautifully written. It's as far away from Gael Greene's embarrassing tell-all as possible and still be considered remotely in the same genre. It does not make me a huge fan of Mario Batalli but I do have to admire him for allowing himself and his restaurant to be included in a somewhat less-than-flattering light. And in the end, it reminds me why I'm connected to food, why it's so endlessly fascinating, how many ways there are to be involved. Now I'm on to Marion Nestle's What To Eat, kind of on the other end of the spectrum.

      2. I just finished reading "Clementine in the Kitchen" - about Clementine - a Burgundian cook to an American family living in a French village before the outbreak of WWII, and their subsequent adventures in French cooking when they move to Marblehead with Clementine. Really enjoyed it - lots of recipes. I have, however, just this moment, read on the internet that the author made Clementine up ... which if true saddens me a bit - but I did love the book.

        6 Replies
        1. re: MMRuth

          The new autobiography by Julia Child is sweet and a good read. It's not great literature on a prose level, but her story is so compelling and her wonder and excitement as she discovers French food is completely unabashed and endearing. She reminded me how I felt the first time I tasted a great baguette or croissant, which is a great memory to relive.

          I'm very sad to hear "Clementine" was made up!

          1. re: MMRuth

            "I have, however, just this moment, read on the internet that the author made Clementine up ..."

            Where did you read that? It's true that the name Clementine was an invention, as was the name Phineas Beck. And she may have been a bit of a composite of a few cooks who worked for the Chamberlains in France. But there was a Burgundian cook who worked for the family in France and came with them to Marblehead. Her real name was Germaine. I used to work with (and was good friends with) Narcisse Chamberlain--aka Diane Beck--and her stories of "Clementine" were very real indeed.

            1. re: JoanN

              It was part of someone's review of the book - maybe on Amazon - glad to read your post about Germaine!

            2. re: MMRuth

              I have Clementine, it was originally publihed in 1943. The author was Samuel Chamberlain writing under the name Phineas Beck. We was one of the original writers for Gourmet.

              1. re: Candy

                The illustrations are lovely as well ... it would be fun to have one of the original ones - this is a reprint in some series gathered together by Ruth Reichl.

                Have you read anything of Richard Olney's - as I mentioned elsewhere, I just read about him for the first time in Gourmet, and thought that I'd like to read something of his.

                1. re: MMRuth

                  Mine is the 1963 edition. Published by Gourmet Books. I have Olney's Simple French Cooking but have not ready any essays etc. by him

            3. I really enjoyed Garlic and Saphires. MFK Fisher's The Gastronomical Me is a great read as well. Of course, Hemmingway's A Moveable Feast is great. In terms of fiction I really enjoyed The Debt to Pleasure. I have never picked up one of the "Best of American..." series on food writing but i imagine that would be fun. I am sure there are great articles in my monthly Food and Wine, but i only look at the pictures.

              I bought The Perfectionist a few weeks back but have not started to read it. I did enjoy the New Yorker article about the same subject and from the same writer. I could happily read an entire book of New Yorker's "Table for Two"

              1. The Perfectionist was an amazing book!!! It is so detailed and historical. it goes into depth about how Michelin came in existence as well as how the french dining scene. It was also really interesting to see how Bernard Louiseau got interested in food and what it meant to him.