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Blue plate special : an autobiography of my appetites /

"In the tradition of M.F.K. Fisher, Laurie Colwin, and Ruth Reichl, [this book] is a narrative in which food--eating it, cooking it, reflecting on it--becomes the vehicle for unpacking a life. Christensen explores her history of hunger--not just for food but for love and confidence and a sense of... Full description

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Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Doubleday, 2013
Edition: First edition.
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SUMMARY

From acclaimed novelist Kate Christensen, Blue Plate Special is a mouthwatering literary memoir about an unusual upbringing and the long, winding path to happiness.

"To taste fully is to live fully." For Kate Christensen, food and eating have always been powerful connectors to self and world--"a subterranean conduit to sensuality, memory, desire." Her appetites run deep; in her own words, she spent much of her life as "a hungry, lonely, wild animal looking for happiness and stability." Now, having found them at last, in this passionate feast of a memoir she reflects upon her journey of innocence lost and wisdom gained, mistakes made and lessons learned, and hearts broken and mended.
   In the tradition of M. F. K. Fisher, Laurie Colwin, and Ruth Reichl, Blue Plate Special is a narrative in which food--eating it, cooking it, reflecting on it--becomes the vehicle for unpacking a life. Christensen explores her history of hunger--not just for food but for love and confidence and a sense of belonging--with a profound honesty, starting with her unorthodox childhood in 1960s Berkeley as the daughter of a mercurial legal activist who ruled the house with his fists. After a whirlwind adolescent awakening, Christensen strikes out to chart her own destiny within the literary world and the world of men, both equally alluring and dangerous. Food of all kinds, from Ho Hos to haute cuisine, remains an evocative constant throughout, not just as sustenance but as a realm of experience unto itself, always reflective of what is going on in her life. She unearths memories--sometimes joyful, sometimes painful--of the love between mother and daughter, sister and sister, and husband and wife, and of the times when the bonds of love were broken. Food sustains her as she endures the pain of these ruptures and fuels her determination not to settle for anything less than the love and contentment for which she's always yearned.
   The physical and emotional sensuality that defines Christensen's fiction resonates throughout the pages of Blue Plate Special . A vibrant celebration of life in all its truth and complexity, this book is about embracing the world through the transformative power of food: it's about listening to your appetites, about having faith, and about learning what is worth holding on to and what is not.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Prologuep. 1
Part 1Berkeleyp. 7
Part 2Wildermuthp. 33
Part 3San Miguelp. 77
Part 4Verde Valley and Spring Valleyp. 109
Part 5Francep. 149
Part 6Upstate, Oregon, Iowap. 185
Part 7New Yorkp. 229
Part 8Williamsburg and Greenpointp. 259
Part 9Monitor Streetp. 303
Part 10New Englandp. 327
Epiloguep. 351


Review by Booklist Review

Novelist Christensen (The Astral, 2011) pegs her tangy memoir of a peripatetic life to the endless quest for sustenance and the nurturing of the self. In her first food memory, she's just eaten her favorite breakfast, soft-boiled eggs, when her father viciously attacks her mother. An anxious and overly responsible child, she vows to help her mother and relies on books for solace and enlightenment. I began with eating and moved on to cooking just as I began with reading and moved on to writing. Christensen tracks her food and literary adventures from California to Arizona, France, upstate New York, Oregon, Iowa, New York City, and New England, through tumultuous relationships and jobs as varied as short-order cook and corporate secretary. Harmonizing with her nostalgia for childhood comfort food, or blue plate specials, Christensen writes with savory, home-cooked clarity as she digs deeply into the pleasures and dangers of food, charting the culinary fads of the 1960s on as well as changes to women's lives while zestfully telling intimate, harrowing, and hilarious tales of appetites corrosive and nourishing. Recipes included.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Novelist Christensen (The Great Man) describes her 1970s upbringing in Arizona in this unpretentious memoir. The oldest daughter of a Marxist lawyer and Waldorf-educated cellist, Christensen always modeled herself after her tough, uncompromising, iconoclastic father, whose manic rages nonetheless ruptured the family, sending the Christensen, her mother, and two sisters to start life in Tempe, Ariz., where her mother took up graduate studies in psychology. The three girls flourished, immersed in the era's consciousness-raising feminist literature and instant or experimental food, recipes for which Christensen dandles along her narrative without much ado (e.g., "farmers fritters," "camping peas"). Her efficient, chronological chapters treat some of the details those years, such as her mother's boyfriends and her own crushes, even the sexual predator at the Waldorf school she attended briefly in high school in Spring Valley, N.Y., but mostly the undercurrent eddies around the author's persistent loneliness, which she indulged by solitary writing and gorging on comfort food like bread and granola. A stint in France ("flageolets en pissenlits"), followed by college in Portland at Reed, graduate school in Iowa City, and work in New York round out this frank memoir, with appropriate culinary offerings for the writer's darker moods ("Bachelorette puttanesca"). (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Christensen's (The Great Man) latest is quite a departure from her typical fiction works. In this memoir, the author unflinchingly shares her far-from-idyllic life, from growing up with an abusive father to her lifelong desire to satisfy her appetites for love and belonging. Christensen ties the events of her life story together using food; whether expressing joy, grief, loss, or love, there is a cuisine to go with it. Prolific narrator Tavia Gilbert's expert performance makes listeners feel they are catching up with an old friend. VERDICT Fans of food memoirs, such as Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones & Butter or Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone, will be delighted. [See a Q&A with the author and the narrator on page 60.]-Donna Bachowski, Orange Cty. Lib. Syst., Orlando, FL (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
AUTHOR NOTES

Kate Christensen lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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