Thursday, August 1, 2013

"Blue Plate Special," by Kate Christensen

Who could resist a book titled “Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of my Appetites” (Doubleday, 2013)? Certainly not I! This memoir by novelist Kate Christensen is aptly described on the front book flap as follows: “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.” I have read and enjoyed the three authors listed, with a special fondness for the late Laurie Colwin. So I dived headfirst into this book, and devoured it in a couple of days. It is candid, sometimes very sad, sometimes celebratory, and absolutely mesmerizing. It is a memoir of family, friends, a series of loves, and a series of homes scattered across the U.S.; it tells of struggling to be a writer and struggling to overcome the legacy of a very difficult childhood. And woven throughout are the author’s connections with food: learning about different types of food, learning to cook, being comforted by food, being fascinated by food, maturing in her tastes…and always, throughout, cooking and eating. She describes the food in her life in vivid detail. The food is important, even central, but finally, the biggest strength of this book is Christensen’s honest depiction of her life and evolution. I have known of but not been drawn to her novels, but perhaps now I will look for them.

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