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Crazy in the Kitchen: Food, Feuds, and Forgiveness in an Italian American Family Hardcover – January 17, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (January 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582342989
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582342986
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #849,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Louise DeSalvo is a writer, professor, lecturer, and scholar who lives in New Jersey. Her many books include the memoirs Vertigo, Breathless, and Adultery; the acclaimed biography Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on her Life and Work; and Writing as a Way of Healing. She also edited Woolf's early novel Melymbrosia and coedited The Milk of Almonds: Italian American Women Writers on Food and Culture.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Amara VINE VOICE on June 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book to read thinking it was like so many other books I have read about Italian-Americans in an attempt to better understand my husband's family---a light-hearted look at the "crazy" antics of a close knit, pasta eating bunch of eccentrics. However, this is not at all what this book is, and what it actually is helped me more than any book I've read in understanding the family I have joined.
When Desalvo says "Crazy in the Kitchen", she is not kidding. Her mother and much of her family really does have seriously crazy tendencies---fury, cruelty, irrational financial habits, long running feuds, etc. And the kitchen is where many of these things are played out---from her mother's poor cooking to her step-grandmother's good but steep in unbreakable traditions cooking, to the cooking and eating of her ancestors in Southern Italy, or the NOT eating---for I finally understood what drove so many Italians to come to America. I had no idea how awful conditions were for the peasants of Italy. What they were subjected to honestly reminded me of accounts of places like Cambodia or China, during the Great Leap Forward.
I learned a great deal about Southern Italian culture from this book, and found myself reading many passages to my husband, a first generation Italian-American who spent much of his youth in Sicily visiting, and who had parents who spoke only Italian, and even he was stunned to find out much of what I read. I now understand my late in-laws much better than I did before this reading.
The writing style of this book took a bit to get used to, until I let myself fall into it. It's written like so many stories told by my in-laws---in a bit of a circular way---you find out a bit here, and a bit there, and it all adds up in the end.
I want to thank Ms. Desalvo for this book. I look forward eagerly to reading the rest of her works.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Caring Dad on February 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Louise DeSalvo is a first class writer an this may very well be her best book yet. A master of memoir, DeSalvo has filled Crazy in the Kitchen with touching, funny and memorable stories about growing up and living in an Italian immigrant family. Most wonderful about this book, however, are the messages and meanings that everyone of us can take away from it -- the longing for a complete realtionship with our parents that is never quite realized, the quirks and and dysfunction that plagues every family and the joy of surviving and living despite these things. This book will make you laugh, make you cry and make you revel in the joy of living each and every day for its simple pleasures.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Rosenberg on June 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book from start to finish. The descriptions of food were mouthwatering. I appreciated the view into the lives of Italian immigrants and their lives in Italy. The family interactions were well described. Each chapter was a gem of an essay. Unlike many memoire writers, this author sustained the high level of writing and self-exploration to the very end. I really admire her ability to dig into her real feelings and to try to understand her parents and grandparents. I plan to look for other books by this author.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. L. Becker on April 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is the first in a very long time I've read word by word. Even when I could set aside her subjects, the vitality of DeSalvo's writing style was irresistable for me--elegant, layered, a bit vulgar, self-indulgent, complex, musical, heartbreaking, self-effacing, beautiful.

My maternal grandparents were Italian immigrants to California; my mother and her sisters born in the U.S. DeSalvo's exploration of the Italian culture both here in the States and in the Old County gave me a handhold among my mother's family as no other source has.

You'll either hate this book immediately, like tripe, or inhale it like the best cannoli.
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