For those of you who don’t know—and I didn’t—Barbara Pym was an English novelist, popular in the 1950s for her social comedies. She is the fifth woman Laura Shapiro discusses in What She Ate, and as such, this is the fifth post in my series about the nonfiction book about food.
Though her novels were not considered highbrow, they developed quite a following and have a beloved place in English culture. Pym wrote about relationships, about village life, and often about the church. She also included a lot of food in her writing, certainly mentioning the bad but more often celebrating the good of English cooking (when no one else was really talking about its positives).
For those of you who don’t know, Eva Braun was Hitler’s mistress (and, at the very end, wife). While Hitler took precautions to appear unattached in public, in private, it was well-known that he was with Eva. She hosted many of the meals at Berghof, a Nazi party retreat in the Bavarian Alps. If you saw my review of The Taster, Berghof will be quite familiar to you.
Eleanor Roosevelt was longest serving First Lady of the United States, living in the White House with her husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt, during the Great Depression and World War II. She is remembered as an activist, a champion of women’s and African-American rights. Eleanor was a feminist who embraced domesticity, and in fact, a huge part of her legacy was the incorporation of home economics into education (though she herself didn’t do chores or cook meals).
This time we’ll meet Rosa Lewis, a prominent English caterer. She was born in Essex in 1867, left school at the age of 12, and after starting in domestic service worked her way up to cook. Rosa had a strong Cockney accent, which she retained despite it being considered “insufferably vulgar” and offensive. Instead, it became her trademark. She commanded respect and her cooking even caught the attention of King Edward VII, which pushed her catering services into high demand.
As a lover of food memoirs, culinary news and food in general, Laura Shapiro’s nonfiction What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Storieshas been on my TBR since it’s release two years ago. I have been meaning to do a review-recipe series on it for far too long, and that day has finally come! This post is the first in the series, so I’ll give a brief overview of the book before diving into the first woman’s story.
As the blurb says, “everyone eats, and food touches on every aspect of our lives—social and cultural, personal and political. Yet most biographers pay little attention to people’s attitudes toward food.” Those of you who enjoy food memoirs like me know that, while food plays an important part in the storytelling, those memoirs are rarely just about food. They are about the human experience. So much insight can be drawn from not only what people eat, but how and why.
Not much over the course of Julie’s memoir was surprising to me, though certainly elements of it had been left out of the more streamlined movie (also paired with Julia’s life story, where Meryl Streep plays the iconic chef). I have to say, though, the book lacked the charm with which the movie nestled into my heart.
The time of year has come where I’m choosing to settle in with cozy books, and Ruth Reichl’s food-centric novel Delicious! fit that bill perfectly. Reichl is a well-known food writer, and her past certainly helped her craft the core of this novel, since the main character Billie Breslin works at the prominent (but fictional) food magazine, Delicious.
Billie has a phenomenal palate and can detect even the slightest amount of ingredients in a recipe with just a bite. It’s this gift — along with her appreciation of and curiosity about food — that earns her a job as assistant to Jake, the editor of Delicious. Billie fits in instantly, at home among people who are equally passionate about food, and her future is looking bright. But, when the magazine suddenly shuts down, her work family disperses, and she’s left alone in the office (housed in a 19th century mansion) to make good on the Delicious Guarantee.
I read Molly Wizenberg’s first memoir, A Homemade Life, during my Thanksgiving readathon last year and fell in love with it. Her storytelling was warm and relatable, and her recipes sounded (and were, when I tried a couple of them) delicious. So, I was excited when I stumbled upon her next memoir, Delancey, one day while browsing near the cookbooks in the library.
While A Homemade Life was more a jumble of life stories (sometimes connected, sometimes not) and charming nonetheless, Delancey tells a linear story of her experiences while opening a restaurant with her husband Brandon. While it was more his dream than hers – like me, Molly detested working in restaurants and preferred the comforts of home cooking – she supported him as he pursued it.
Happy Tuesday, Hungry Bookworms! I’m excited to share this brand new literary cookbook with you. From Alison Walsh, A Literary Tea Party, brings together many of your favorite books and pairs them with recipes and tea blends.
From childhood favorites The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, and Treasure Island to adult classics like Romeo and Juliet and Sherlock Holmes, this cookbook has something for everyone! It’s a short little cookbook (76 pages in my digital version), but I found it to be a perfect length to keep it from getting overwhelming.
At this point in my life, I thought I could safely say graphic novels aren’t for me. I’d read a handful of graphic novels and a couple of comic books – mostly all recommendations from friends but a few piqued my curiosity on their own – and just wasn’t a fan. I appreciated the talent that went into creating them, but for some reason, I haven’t been able to connect to these types of stories emotionally. I decided to give graphic novels one last chance with Lucy Knisley’s Relish: My Life in the Kitchen.
Happily, I enjoyed it immensely. I’m going to guess the main difference here is the way food was constantly incorporated into the story. Every chapter revolved around her memory of a food experience and nearly all of them featured a whimsically illustrated recipe at the end.