Book Reviews

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

unrest
by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

Corked
by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto

More...

Boozehound
by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

Tomatoland
by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

Curry
by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

Ratio
by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

Candyfreak
by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

Cakewalk
by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

Gastrology
by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

Eating
by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide


Reviews

REVIEW by Emily Stone

Cakewalk, A Memoir
by Kate Moses
The Dial Press, May 2010
Hardcover 350 pp., ISBN: 978-0385342988

Immediately upon finishing Kate Moses’s Cakewalk, I made the author’s “Strawberry Shortcake for My Mother.” Full of cream and sugar, exploding with ripe fruit, and baked with an unexpected kick of ginger, the dessert startlingly captured both the bold sensory experience of being a kid and the more hesitant impulse to reflect upon the past.

A reminiscence of a chaotic childhood, Cakewalk closely follows the conventions of two distinct contemporary nonfiction genres. The first, exemplified by Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss and Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle, is the cutting but ultimately measured and forgiving story of an unstable family written later in life with a relieved sense of triumph from within a presumably stable one. “Sugar was the mainstay of my diet as a child, present in some abundant form at virtually every meal,” writes Moses, now a novelist and editor who has compiled two anthologies on motherhood. In the first of many exacting catalogues that convey the physical experience of eating, the extraordinary idiosyncrasy of taste, and the syncopated rhythm of meals, Moses explains that

My mother stockpiled soft drinks by the case and Halloween-sized bags of candy year-round in our garage, regularly replenishing a freezer the dimensions of a Roman tomb with stacked boxes of packaged snack cakes, frozen pies, and gallon tubs of ice cream. Even my father, whose personal austerity rivaled that of any Buddhist monk, was a donut pusher who kept Baby Ruth bars under the rolled-up socks in his underwear drawer.

The second genre that Cakewalk conforms to is the foodie memoir, where in a tradition that runs from Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone to Kim Severson’s Spoon Fed, learning to cook is a kind of growing up in itself and the narrative moves from one elaborately-prepared dish to another. The book is made up of thirty-five short chapters, all but two followed by recipes. Whether this was Moses’s intention or not, the presentation allows readers to approach her story as they would a cookbook, dipping in for the rhubarb crisp and the anecdotes surrounding it, skipping over the chocolate chip cookies and the German pancakes, and ultimately deciding on the spiced pecan birthday cake. Cakewalk distinguishes itself as both autobiography and food-writing with its gentle ability to allow food to function on the page as it does in life, as a metaphor for our larger desires and a material component of them, the proclivities and pathologies that surround it’s consumption individual to each one of us.

Moses reaches page 266 before declaring that “I was no longer a child,” and the adult life that follows is a mere coda to the coming of age that preceded it. A function of my own peculiar set of proclivities and pathologies, I’m sure, I tend to be impatient with the literary task of rendering the naïve experiences of youth in language that conveys the insight of adulthood. Though the voice in Cakewalk is consistently compelling and sincere, I flipped quickly through the passages recalling fabled family histories and the retellings of upheavals that moved the author’s family back and forth between Alaska and the lower forty-eight, even the lovable characterizations of teachers who enabled the protagonist’s burgeoning writing career and the lyrical homage to Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto (where Moses eventually settled). What slammed me to a stop was the scene in which Moses returns to her capricious mother’s Anchorage residence after graduating from college only to find that “the house looked like it had been ransacked by secret police” and that the untended refrigerator “was like one of those seventeenth-century Dutch still lifes of a table opulent with gloriously ripe fruit and vegetables, which on closer examination you realize are oozing rot and maggots.”

In a heartbreaking farewell to childhood at the close of that chapter, she drives away from home and into her own life, past a field of wild strawberries longing to be picked.


September 26, 2010