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Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life Hardcover – April 15, 2010

3.9 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this frank confessional memoir, Severson, food writer for the New York Times since 2004, attributes her culinary confidence to the tutelage of eight maternal figures, from the legendary to the not-so-famous. Moving from Alaska, where she wrote for the Anchorage Daily News, to San Francisco to be a food writer for the Chronicle, Severson quits her destructive habit of excessive drinking, and when she first interviews Marion Cunningham, the beloved California food writer, the two share their similar fears and vulnerabilities. Severson's refrain that I was a fraud and an alcoholic and I was scared to death I would fail runs through this narrative like a dirge, while her successive culinary acquaintances reflect her insecurities: Chez Panisse chef Alice Waters represents an admirable, however ridiculously uncompromising model of perseverance; Ruth Reichl, her intimidating predecessor at the New York Times, reminds her of the leader of the popular girls at school into whose realm she never fit; and Southern food writer Edna Lewis's unconventional living situation with the young gay cook Scott Peacock inspires Severson to recount her own difficult early years of coming out as a lesbian in the face of her family's disapproval and discomfort. Some of the portraits verge on the fawning (e.g., Rachael Ray has a charisma that is as God-given as a star pitcher's right arm), but Severson's goal of finding a connection to her Italian mother dying of Parkinson's rings brave and sincere. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

New York food writer Severson traces her zeal for food back to her earliest days growing up in a Norwegian American home. Embarking on a career in food writing with jobs in San Francisco and New York, she found self-confidence and purpose that helped overcome alchoholism and drugs. Her profession also gave her entrée to some of cooking's most important practitioners, who became more than mere news sources. Venerable Marion Cunningham proved to have some of Severson's same weaknesses. Alice Waters taught her how to appreciate soundly prepared simple foods. Celebrity critic Ruth Reichl, whose desk Severson inherited at the New York Times, proved a model of intelligence and idiosyncratic style. Leah Chase, the great impresario of Creole cooking, served as an example of a life lived with purpose and helped reawaken Severson's religious impulses. Redoubtable southern cook Edna Lewis' compassionate spirit helped Severson come to fuller acceptance of her own homosexuality. --Mark Knoblauch

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; 1st edition (April 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159448757X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487576
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #576,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Related Media

More About the Author

New York Times food writer Kim Severson's newest book, "Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life," will be published by Riverhead Press on April 15, 2010. Read more about the author at http://www.kimseverson.com.

Here's her bio in a nutshell: Severson has been a staff writer for the New York Times since 2004. Previously, she spent six years writing about cooking and the culture of food for the San Francisco Chronicle. Before that, she had a seven-year stint as an editor and reporter at The Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. She has also covered crime, education, social services and government for daily newspapers on the West Coast.

Severson has won several regional and national awards for news and feature writing, including the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for her work on childhood obesity in 2002 and four James Beard awards for food writing.

A new edition of Severson's first book, "The New Alaska Cookbook," came out in May 2009. Her second book, "The Trans Fat Solution: Cooking and Shopping to Eliminate the Deadliest Fat from Your Diet," was published by Ten Speed Press in 2003.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Really enjoyed the first half or so. Reading about Alice Waters, Marion Cunningham and Ruth Reichl was entertaining, although the conceit that is intended to link the cameos of these women together ("How Eight Cooks Saved My Life") gets stretched a little thin. May have made for a series of interesting little canapes but when when whipped together the souffle falls a little flat. In an effort to fill some of the spaces and make the whole thing cohere the author narrates more and more of her own life and the concoction verges toward an apologia and coming of age/self acceptance story. I wish she had stayed with the narratives about the women she met along the way because, although she is a good writer, she is a lot less interesting when she writes about her own life. On page 195 she summarizes her faults and talents: "I have a state school education, a drinking problem, and I like girls, not boys. I don't tan well and I'm always about fifteen pounds too heavy. I'm not so great with money and I sometimes act before I think. But I'm also (most days) a helpful citizen of the world. I've got a good sense of humor and a decent softball arm. And I have gotten pretty good at being a daughter, a wife, a friend and, lately, a mother. In other words, I'm me."
At which point I closed the book and thought "I'm done."
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Kim Severson serves up a modern tale of learning to become her authentic-self through life-lessons of those people whom she admires, who just happen to be cooks/chefs. Ms. Severson is a food writer for the New York Times and in this food memoir, "Spoon Fed" she uses her interviews with 8 cooks to weave a very personal tale of becoming an adult, being gay, alcoholism and substance abuse, discovering her passion for writing about food, walking those tricky roads of familial relationships (especially with her mother) and so much more. And like the saying goes; "if you want to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs"! I found Ms. Severson's story to be refreshingly honest as well as, heart warming.

"Spoon Fed" is an enjoyable book. It's a fast read but that does not mean that it will leave you empty. On the contrary, "Spoon Fed" is a full meal and more. Ms. Severson includes wonderful recipes at the end of each chapter that are touchstones to each story as well as delicious.

I have to admit, that this book is right up my alley and I am a bit biased. Being a native of New Orleans, cooking and food are also my passion in life. I found a kinship with this author and enjoyed her voice, sense of humor and her crazy world of, "food, glorious food"! But you do not have to be a foodie or a chef to enjoy this book. It is a wonderful story of growing-up and embracing your true self, no matter where you come from or what you do for a living, we are all just human. Ms. Severson's life and story shows that we may take different roads but we all pretty much end up at the same place, back to ourselves.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Kim Severson finds a kind of faith by asking for help to a higher power, help to stop drinking and taking drugs, which she feels she receives. She also receives help from women who show her the way to live and they are 8 women who by their cooking and philosophies on life ground her and connect her to a strength to live. The women, with the exception of her mother, Anne Zappa Sverson, are famous: Marion Cunningham, Alice Walters, Ruth Reichl, Marcella Hazan, Rachael Ray, Edna Lewis and Leah Chase. This community of women has lessons for us all....cry and keep on moving, figure out what you have to do in life and do it, look at the world as beautiful and it will be, and it's your job to make it better.
The lessons are mostly related to food and feeding both physically and emotionally. As Kim slowly evolves and has faith in herself and also discovers a wonderful lesson for all...how can you blame someone for not talking unless you talk to them... a great lesson between mothers and daughters especially; you can take these lessons for your own. Her writing style is easy and interesting and no matter what life you lead there are lessons in this book for you.
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Format: Hardcover
Kim Severson is engaging and heartfelt in her foodie memoir, in which she traces her history away from alcohol and deep into the heart of cooking, as one of the food writers for the New York Times Dining section.

She is winning and approachable, coming clean almost from paragraph one about her booze addiction and her hard partying youth, pouring out her earnestness about matters 12-step and spiritual, even as she admits how tough it is for her to do so. But...much as I was rooting for her, I felt she didn't break through to the other side. Severson is definitely a kickass journalist, and I've been digging her writing in the NYT for some time. But I didn't feel she found a memoirist's route into the deeper waters she was seeking.

Severson presents her life story, using as jumping off point her connections to eight seminal chefs, from her dear Italian mama to Alice Waters to Ruth Reichl to Rachel Ray and so forth. But I felt I mostly had to take it from her how meaningful these women cooks were, I didn't really get it from her portraits of them in the book. They were more like props, they existed as aspects of Severson's psyche, but otherwise, they didn't really come alive.

Severson starts with a big problem: she's already written about all these people (except her mother), and furthermore, I remember reading pretty much all of those pieces.. Clearly Severson didn't save back any of the best stuff about her subjects from her NYT articles (why should she?), so she has to come up with something fresh and worthwhile so it didn't just sound like retread. She seeks to employ her life story for that, and it is an interesting life and worth reading.
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