Tag: memoirs

I am in a bit of a reading rut lately. I do find that reading about books and reading in general helps me ease back into reading more regularly. I have had this on my To Be Read list for awhile. It’s a lovely memoirs where each chapter is about a memory in the author’s life, a book, and a recipe to go along with it.

Since the author and I are almost exactly the same age, I have read most of the books in her childhood and adolescence chapters. I also liked the mix of recipes included which had lots of baking and savoury dishes too. As with all North American cookbooks, I wish there were actual metric weight ingredients.

This book in hardcover is lovely. Very think and bright paper. There are also some beautiful watercolour illustrations by a friend of Nicoletti’s. I really enjoyed reading it.

In an effort to read more and have good night time routine, I’ve taken to read more in the evenings. In the past and growing up, I have always read most of my fiction and lighter non fiction in less than 3 sittings. In recent years, I have struggled with this way of reading books because life has changed. As much as I prefer to read for days on end in the summer, I cannot. So I read this book in the evenings after dinner and before bed. I like incorporating reading in my pre-bed time routine, but it’s different. I am still trying to get use to it. I’ll see how it goes moving forward but I need to find ways to read more as my life changes.

Read July 28-Aug 1, 2019.

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

This is a food memoirs by an Ethiopian born, Swedish adopted and now American chef. I had not heard about Samuelsson before this memoirs. I think I picked this up because it I read some good things about it as a memoirs about food.

The book discusses not only food, but adoption, culture, soccer/football, and many countries including: Ethiopia, Sweden, Switzerland (it made me miss it!), Austria, New York City, France (I always miss it), time spent on a cruise ship, Ethiopia and more New York. I appreciate any book about travel and observing cultures. The author is a product of that in many ways so it was interesting to see his life over three continents and his journey as a top chef in America.

I did like the food moments and learning about little things from each food culture such as Swedish rustic cooking. I wanted to know more about Swedish pickling’s 1-2-3 method (Swedish vinegar, sugar, and water). I also liked the metaphor of fine dining as museum curation. Food as art that after consumed, you would see the world differently.

Like some chefs, Samuelsson fell into it after failing at being a football star and he admits he sometimes feels like a failed football more than anything. I don’t know if Gordon Ramsay has said that, but cooking was also his secondary choice after his failed football career. Ramsay is actually mentioned in this book. I have read a few things about Ramsay. I have watched and liked a lot of his British (not American) shows. I even just bought one of his cookbooks during my Boxing Day cookbook spree. I don’t find a lot of his food accessible (too fine, too limiting for my tastes), but I bought the one which had reviews for being accessible. I think he tries too hard with his persona, but I also think it’s somewhat admirable how driven he is about everything. There are a number of British chefs who have worked and been made by Ramsay. Two of the most prominent are women. In a boy’s club such as the restaurant kitchen, female chefs are rare especially those running one of Ramsay’s three star Michelin kitchens. Therefore, Ramsay is mostly in my good books. On the other hand, a lot of people have mentioned what a jerk he is and I don’t mean on TV, but behind the scenes. The jerk American persona is mostly played on his US shows. He has badmouthed a number of people, including the author of this book apparently. He’s allegedly a serial cheater. I also think he is arrogant sometimes, but so are a lot of TV chefs. Reading about how he screamed at Samuelsson and with a racist remark did give me pause.

I digressed a bit, but the book does discuss race and ethnicity a number of times. Fine dining is very much a man’s world and sadly, a white man’s world at that. It was intriguing to read in which Samuelsson tried to reach out to the Harlem community, employ women and not tolerate prejudice or abuse from his employees.

While the topics of the books were interesting and a couple of times, touching and candid, there was something about this book that I didn’t love. It had moments and I even felt sympathy for the author, but I didn’t fall in love with this book. It is not a must read, but a decent one if you like memoirs and biographies that feature food and chefs.

Read January 28-29th 2013.

I have a bit of a history of reading expat memoirs, and France is a popular place for expats to write about. One of my favourite expat memoirs is Paris to the Moon. In fact, I think I’ve read more memoirs of living in Paris than any other. Which is to say probably a handful. I think it’s mostly a habit now that if I hear of a decently written memoir about living in France, I’ll read it. It’s very easy since many expats write about France very well and very easily. While I am an anglophile, it can easily be said I am a francophile as I am semi-fluent in French. Though the reason I picked up this book was not only because it was an expat memoir, I knew of Petite Anglaise, as with many people, through her blog. I read it first in 2005 or late 2004 (definitely before she left Mr. Frog). While I was never a regular reader or commentator on her blog, I remember reading several of the posts and comments alluded to in the book. Even in blog format, I admired her openness in writing for her life. While I have had personal blogs over time, my visitor page was never a smidge compared to hers nor have I had the relationship rollerocaster, I could not be as open as she was in the blog. It is funny reading the book with things you’ve read about online or in a blog. It seems to be another perspective, and indeed, Catherine Sanderson seems to differentiate herself and Petite. I enjoyed this memoir because the question is elicits in personal blogging. How much do we or should we reveal? Do a lot of us blog when we are unhappy as a creative and cathartic outlet? For me, it’s fairly true because for many years, this domain has hosted a more personal blog (which is still here, but not been updated for more than a half year) in which I detailed many years of anxiety and doubt. Overall, I like how this memoir posed these questions about online dating, personalities or public writing. I think Sanderson writes in a clear style and voice.

Bill Bryson’s memoir of growing up in 1950s Iowa. I have liked Bryson’s writing for many years and have devoured most of his travel writing. He is always funny, candid, and incredibly observant and insightful. He seems to do a good deal to research his books as well. While this is a memoir, there is commentary on the 1950s as a whole particularly in the US. Bryson admits that he his childhood was not particularly unique or traumatic and yet, as I usually do, he takes simple subjects and revels in the day to day life of being a child in a relatively prosperous and peaceful time. I enjoyed this quick memoir even if I did not live in the 1950s, but there are many moments that remind me of childhood in general. He captures the idiosyncratic nature of the whole time of our lives with his usual writing of his memories. A nice, light read.

A memoir of looking for pleasure, devotional and the balance of the two in Italy, India, and Indonesia. I first started reading last spring/summer, but then I had to return it to the library. It was already a bestseller, but it’s only gotten more popular (as it was featured in Oprah) since then. Some people have been critical of the book for being self-absorbed. I’ve read a lot of travel books and memoirs, and they are all personal in one way or another. Travel is one of the ultimate self-confrontational and education experiences in life. Writing a memoir means evaluation of self, ideas, etc. I can understand why this book probably rubs some people the wrong way. Elizabeth Gilbert can be rather melodramatic writer. Yes, it can be amusing, but sometimes, the writing is seems affected and hammy especially in early chapters. Everything is pointed out, but not in an observant or subtle way. It got a lot better as the book progressed and she traveled more. As she seemed to learn more about life, spirituality, and other people, the book became a fun and enjoyable read. Partly because the author and I share similar interests in spirituality, and there are few things she tried in the book that I have been pondering myself. The book is not the best or most educational travel memoir book, and it’s very personal. Overall, it was a good read, but I understand why the narrative would not be everyone’s cup of tea.

By Augusten Burroughs. On my allconsuming.net account, I ask for recommendations of nonfiction books. This was the book that most people “thought I might enjoy”. It’s a very popular memoirs, and I can see why. Many people think the book is funny, and I found some moments amusing, but most of the time, it was just strange. I think Burroughs’s prose is simple, direct, and effective as it is. Burroughs childhood and the people around him were quite messed up, but the more I read, the less perturbed I became. He also seemed to grow into the weirdness and unsettling nature of his life as he seemed to just accept what it was. Objectively speaking, a lot of the details were disturbing and sad.

I probably wouldn’t have read this book had not so many people recommended it for me as I really don’t read many memoirs of this type. I have read a lot about travel, food, and of famous people, but not on “normal” people. Not that Augusten Burroughs childhood was in any way normal. It’s a bit refreshing, and I did relate to some aspects of this. Due to the lack of boundaries placed on the characters and their disregard of societal norms and values, some of the stuff described was seemed genuinely fun and liberating to me. Often weird, but still neat. There was a spontaneity that I could see the appeal of in the stories of the mini adventures.

The book was shorter than I thought it would be, and I didn’t feel dragged down by it as a result. I don’t love this book nor do I dislike it. I think it conveys how crazy people are, but then again, maybe we have that in our every day lives. You can tell I’m not easily surprised by a lot of things that I read. Like I said, I was able to relate to it in some way showing you how we all want to be let out of our cages sometime.

So I don’t read movie reviews, but I’m fairly abreast of what films are liked and well received. I don’t remember hearing anything about this movie which usually doesn’t mean well for the film. Two of my friends did not like. One of them said the movie dragged on way too long. I’m inclined to agree. It wasn’t that bad of a movie, but it felt a bit aimless. I don’t think it did a good job of making you feel attached to any of the characters. It was slow, and took a bunch of amusing things from the book, but it wasn’t quite enjoyable or even sad enough. It felt a bit disjointed. I think the script might have looked okay on paper, but was just difficult to be cohesive on screen. I thought the acting was pretty decent since there was Annette Benning, Alec Baldwin, Gwyneth Paltrow (she had such few lines that she did not irk me at all in this film), Joseph Fiennes, and Joseph Cross as Augusten. The soundtrack wasn’t bad either, and there were some nice moments attributed to the director and the actors. All in all, not the worse movie I have seen, but not a great adaptation either.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff84, Charing Cross Road (1970) is the documented real life twenty year correspondence between New York write Helene Hanff and London bookseller Frank Doel. It’s been some time since I’ve read the book, but I watched the film today so it brings me memories about the lovely epistolary memoirs. I think anyone who truly loves books should read it because Ms Hanff expresses so many views of why we love prose, poetry (like her, I’m a Donne and Blake girl), and beautifully bound books. The letters are a testament to the relationships that are born and thrive under mutual, ardent bibliophilia. It’s quite a short book, and quite satisfying in my opinion since I love letters almost as much as I love books.

The movie was made  in 1986 and stars Anne Bancroft as Helene, Anthony Hopkins as Frank, and features Judi Dench as Nora Doel. Bancroft did well here, and it was refreshing seeing Hopkins and Dench so young. I think it’s a fine adaptation that not long expresses the relationships from the book and more, but it features all the good things that come out of a period piece drama. There are so many nice moments of detail about the time including the rationing in post-war Britain and the student protests of the 1960s. A nice companion to the book with lovely historical visual detail.

The full title of this book is Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford. Without previous experience in the food business, Buford enters first the food and restaurant business in New York City by working at Mario Batali’s Babbo, and secondly a less capitalist view of food in Italy in the second half as the apprentice butcher. The book is funny, light and interesting. There are a lot of distinct characters in this book. The first half of the book draws similarities to Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain as it shows you the harshness that is the restaurant business. For my love of food, I have never wanted to be a professional chef or cook. My dad is a cook, and it was not a profession he chose for himself at first. He’s been doing it for thirty years, and he is very ready for semi-retirement. Knowing this, I became invested in Buford and felt good when he felt accomplished.

The book takes a different and dare I say, more introspective turn in the second half with the apprenticeship in Italy. Maybe it’s because I love travel books as much as food books or travel in general forces different perspectives for the writer, but there are even more unique characters and stories from Tuscany. The second half reads more like a Bill Bryson travelogue. I did enjoy Buford’s style, and the ending hints at a sequel in France. While Batali and a number of personalities in the book are anti-French, I’m a francophile so I very much excited at the prospect of reading Buford again en France.