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The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food Paperback – October 14, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The title of this testament to one woman's appetite comes from Brillat-Savarin, who wrote of a 10th muse—Gasterea, goddess of the pleasures of taste. Many food writers would argue that this 10th muse is actually Judith Jones. For nearly half a century, Jones, an editor of literary fiction and a senior vice-president at Knopf, has served as midwife to some of the most culturally significant cookbooks of our time, introducing readers to newly discovered talents like Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey and Claudia Roden, to name but a few. In this quiet, spare memoir, set against the shifting landscape of modern cookery in America, Jones reveals herself to be every bit as evangelical about good food and honest cooking as her authors, locating the points where her relationships with these writer-gastronomes and her own gustatory education converged. She ran an illegal restaurant in Paris, learned from Julia Child to de-tendon a goose (a set of maneuvers involving a broomstick), received a tutorial in fresh-bagged squirrel from Edna Lewis and counted James Beard among her mentors. At the end, the book is tinged with sadness over the decline of serious home cooking and the current fixation on dishing up fast and easy mediocrities. But Jones's belief in the primordial importance of cooking well is ultimately inspiring, and it fires these pages as it has fired her life. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Judith Jones, now a senior editor and vice president at Knopf, has long been a major force in the cookbook world. Her foodie fans might not know that she also played a role in bringing Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl to America or that she has edited literary stars like John Updike and Anne Tyler. Two reviewers faulted Jones’s style, but none denied her interesting and influential career. Indeed, if it weren’t for Jones, American consumers might have a hard time purchasing such basics as fresh garlic. Therein lies the challenge in interpreting the critics’ reviews: the critics were all so busy admiring Jones’s life that they didn’t have as much to say about the book itself. Though Jones is a major power in the publishing word, this memoir is not as wide-ranging as, say, Michael Korda’s Another Life. She tells delightful stories, but she sticks to the food, and her readers this time around should be mainly those who are inclined to do the same.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307277445
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307277442
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #549,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Judith Jones is Senior Editor and Vice President at Alfred A. Knopf. She joined the company in 1957 as an editor working primarily on translations of French writers such as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. She had worked before that for Doubleday, first in New York and then in Paris, where she was responsible for reading and recommending The Diary of Anne Frank. In addition to her literary authors, she has been particularly interested in developing a list of first-rate cookbook writers; her authors have included Julia Child (Judith published Julia's first book and was her editor ever after), Lidia Bastianich, James Beard, Marion Cunningham, Rosie Daley, Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey, Edna Lewis, Scott Peacock, Joan Nathan, Jacques Pépin, Claudia Roden, and Nina Simonds. She is the coauthor with Evan Jones (her late husband) of two books: The Book of Bread: Knead It, Punch It, Bake It! (for children); and The Book of New New England Cookery. She also collaborated with Angus Cameron on The L.L. Bean Game and Fish Cookbook. Recently, she has contributed to Vogue, Saveur, and Gourmet magazines. In 2006, she was awarded the James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Edie Sousa on November 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Judith Jones has led a remarkable life out of the range of most people's awareness. She seems to always have had a smart, sensitive ear for good opportunities; enormous talent; and often the great good luck of being in the right place at the right time. An episode in the book regarding Edna Lewis seems especially revealing; I think that perhaps one key to Judith Jones's success is that even though many of her authors wrote cookbooks, which are essentially long lists of instructions, she was always insistent that the author's voice shine through, just as she would insist on it were the author writing a novel. For Julia Child, of course, the voice not only shone through--it became one of the most recognizable voices ever to float across the airwaves. Most of America is only just beginning to "get" what other, older countries have always known and Jones has always believed --that faster food is usually not better food, that seasonal is smart, and that cooking is an art and a labor of love, not a chore. If you agree, you'll love this book. As an editor at Knopf, Judith has been instrumental in finding and sharing the talents of some extraordinary cooks who wish to share their love of the art with the rest of us foodies and kitchen clods. She has led the life I would love to have led. Her memoir is a joy to read, and the recipe section is just as good as the memoir part. Not a blockbuster book, but a sweet memoir by a woman to whom we owe more than we know. Immensely readable and highly recommended.
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Kornbluth TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Her mother, "well into her nineties", had an urgent question: "Tell me, Judith, do you really like garlic?"

Sadly, Judith Jones did. And she also loved the foods of her youth that her mother's cook had lovingly produced:

I still feel nostalgic for the warm chocolate steamed pudding with foamy sauce, the bread pudding with its crusty top and raisins bursting inside, the apple brown Betty made with good tart country apples, the floating island with its peaks of egg white swimming in a sea of yellow custard. Then, when summer came, there were the summer puddings, a bread-lined mold steeped in just-cooked blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries as each came in season, pressed, chilled, and unmolded, with thick unpasteurized cream poured over each serving. Edie had some specialties of her own, such as individual warm nut-and-date cakes, and meringues (which we called kisses) topped with bananas and slathered in hand-beaten whipped cream.

When I was asked during my middle-school years what I would like for lunch on Fridays --- the day when we had to stay in school until only one o'clock --- I knew exactly what I wanted: a whole artichoke, spaghetti and cheese, and fresh fruit or applesauce for dessert. The spaghetti and cheese that Edie made was more sauce than pasta (a term we didn't even know then --- it was either spaghetti or macaroni), enriched with massive gratings of good Vermont Cheddar cheese, then baked in a casserole with buttered crumbs and more cheese on top. I made a ritual of slurping down those hot creamy strands of spaghetti and alternately picking off artichoke leaves, one by one, dipping them in lemony butter or hollandaise, and scraping off the flesh with my teeth. I did it slowly, often turning the pages of a book.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By George Vutetakis on November 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a recently published book written by the illustrious food editor at Knopf publishing house. She was the muse behind gastonomical luminaries such as Julia Child, James Beard, Maddhur Jaffrey, Edna Lewis and many others. More than editing, she coaxed the intimate voices out of cooks whose lives have been intertwined some of worlds greatest culinary traditions. The wonderfully enticing stories of meeting people, cooking with them and sharing delicious results are a beautiful framework for the life she lives and shares, exemplified by her tales of learning and aligning with earth's seasonal rhythms. The stories of her life in Vermont are particularly fascinating and I felt as if I knew her. This is a great read whether one is vegetarian or not and is inspiration to someone like myself who is cooking and writing.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Carolina Summer on January 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am so glad to see that some others felt the same way I did about this book. After all the praise lavished on it, I was eager to read this. I was surprised to be so disappointed. It's not that she lived a dull life, surely, but this is an awfully boring and uninspiring version of it. I collect cookbooks but even still, I had to google some of the authors she name dropped. I'd never heard of them, and it's clear she assumed they were so famous that she did not have to put their relevance into any context. The bits about Julia Child are the shining moments, but they're fleeting.

I wanted her to open up, share something intimate. I wanted her to seem human and inperfect, especially since I couldn't relate to her privileged life at all, from her upbringing in a wealthy home with servants to the casual purchase of a large second home in Vermont. She always felt remote. I was surprised how she glossed over the fact that she lived with a married/separated man in the days that sort of thing wasn't done. I'd like to have seen more about her feelings about that, how her family felt, something. About halfway through, this falls into a pattern of "I worked with this writer, I made her book better this way," and "I worked with this writer, we edited her book in her kitchen."

I missed the story and narrative that you find in so many food memoirs, such as in Ruth Reichl's books, notably Tender to the Bone. I still have a lot of respect for Ms. Jones, even if I wasn't crazy about her book.
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