Book Reviews

The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire
by Gaylord Brewer

The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera
by Naomi Guttman

by Michael Pollan

Revenge Baking
by Randon Billings Noble

Biting the Apple
by Jeanie Greensfelder

Best Food Writing 2014
edited by Holly Hughes

Creamy and Crunchy
by Jon Krampner

Biting through the Skin
by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

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

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

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


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

by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

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

by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

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

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

by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

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


REVIEW by Carrie Vasios

For You, Mom. Finally.
by Ruth Reichl
Penguin, April 2010
Paperback 144 pp., ISBN: 978-0143117346

Ruth Reichl thought she knew her mother: She was the woman who served a bowl of weeks-old pudding mixed with pretzels, marshmallows, tinned peaches, prunes and jam as a snack to members of her daughter’s Brownie troop. She was the woman who gave food poisoning to most of her son’s engagement party. She was the Queen of Mold, a dramatic and crazy woman who, through negative example, helped Reichl become the food genius that she is today. Who would expect Reichl to publish a tribute to her mother?

The resulting book, For You, Mom. Finally, was originally published under the title Not Becoming My Mother, and it essentially captures the change that Reichl has gone through in the process of learning and writing about her mother’s life. She began her search stubbornly believing, as perhaps we all do, that she knew who her mother was, but when she finally forced herself to open the Pandora’s box labeled “Miriam’s Life and Letters” that lay crumbling in her basement, she learned more than she could have imagined.

Her mother grew up during the Depression. Women were expected to be housewives, and beauty was all too clearly prized over brains. Having decidedly more brains, Miriam found herself growing towards dreaded spinsterhood. So she married a man whom she didn’t know and, it turned out, she didn’t like, so she could keep house and make babies like a good girl should. What comes across most strongly in Miriam’s letters and musings is her boredom. This is a woman who had a doctorate degree, who was interested in books, music, and art, but was allowed to do nothing more than vacuum the house.

That Miriam had been unhappy trying to be a housewife in a loveless marriage that ended in divorce isn’t so shocking. What’s more telling is that she loved her second husband and he was completely devoted to her for their entire marriage, yet Miriam became only unhappier. She went to a therapist and was given a changing roster of medications, the ubiquitous house-wife pills the Rolling Stones so aptly named “Mother’s Little Helper.” But the pills didn’t help. Miriam became more extreme in her outbursts and her cooking disasters, someone who Reichl more and more didn’t want to be around.

What Reichl didn’t know until she excavated her mother’s letters was how common her mother’s predicament was. Many of Miriam’s friends were similarly over-medicated and under-stimulated. Reichl did some historical research, conducted interviews, and found that women all across America in the fifties were sitting in their homes, literally bored to tears. In this way, For You, Mom. Finally begins to grow past the story of one mother and becomes an exploration of the predicament of American women and their changing role in society.

At the end of the book, Reichl remains unsure whether her mother was really a manic depressive, as her doctors diagnosed, or whether she was simply a smart woman, driven crazy by the confines of the home. What she is sure about, however, is that her own ambition and success in the working world is thanks to her mother. It is a keen revelation.

July 9, 2010