42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Following the muse and ahead of her time
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...
Published on November 8, 2007 by Edie Sousa
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly dull - a disappointment
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...
Published on January 30, 2008 by Carolina Summer
Most Helpful First | Newest First
42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Following the muse and ahead of her time,
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.
52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's not bragging if you can do. Judith Jones did it. Very quietly.,
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. Then, when I got to the heart, I would carefully pull off all the thistles and revel in that concentrated, slightly grassy-tasting artichoke flesh.
This is writing of a fairly high order, and if it is about food --- one of the universal equalizers --- even better.
So who is this Judith Jones?
One of the most important people in publishing --- and, to what must be her pleasure, almost unknown outside it.
Judith Jones, now in her 80s, is the queen of cookbooks at Knopf, our most prestigious publisher. Julia Child? Her landmark first book was languishing at another publisher; Jones took it over and was Child's editor ever after. Marcella Hazan, Claudia Roden, Edna Lewis and Marion Cunningham --- she found or edited them all. Oh, and on the side, she edited literary fiction. Like...John Updike.
But now she's written a memoir, and while no great secrets are revealed, many great stories are told --- all of them proof that if you're gifted and determined and attractive, you might also get lucky. So....
In 1948, after a privileged New York childhood, she rushes off to Paris, and has exactly the kind of problem that A.J. Liebling encountered two decades earlier --- not enough money to eat three good meals a day. LIFE Magazine does a feature on "Young Americans in France" and she gets to enjoy, at the magazine's expense, a Mere Poularde omelette at Mont-Saint-Michel. Back in Paris, she runs into a friend who just happens to living in the apartment of his aunt, an Italian countess. (Their other roommate: the painter Balthus.) To make ends meet, they turn it into a restaurant. And all's well until....
In order to stay in Paris, she moves on to odd jobs with occasionally unsavory characters (a "must" on the resumé of any proper young woman), meets the married man of her dreams, waits out his divorce, gets the ring, and, along the way, discovers a book by a murdered young Jewess named Anne Frank and arranges to have it published in America.
And so it goes. You could say there's a lot of name-dropping here, but that's to miss the point --- Judith Jones was there, she did these things, cooked these meals, "created" these people. But she is crusty and matter-of-fact about all of it ("Then I underwent a mastectomy"). Practical to the end: The recipes at the back of the book include a section called Cooking for One. Still looking forward: With her cousin, a farmer in northern Vermont, she's invested in Angus beef cattle who will "be raised on local grass with tender loving care." And still tart: "I get so sick of the Food Network thing --- `We're more than just about food.' Who wants it to be about more than just food? Food is a wonderful subject, endless."
Garlic. It's very good for you --- for Judith Jones, anyway.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful life in food,
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.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly dull - a disappointment,
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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The love of life, good food, and cooking.,
This review is from: The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food (Paperback)
If you enjoy cooking, if you enjoy browsing through cook books, if the secrets of great meals excite you, and above all if love good food then this is a book for you. It is not only about good food and cooking, it is a memoir of a fascinating woman who lives an interesting life, and has the writing skills to make her account a page turner.
For me Julia Child is a hero. When my wife and I talk about cooking, my wife often says, "Yes, I know Julia Child said to do it this way therefore that is the way it must be done, right?" Fortunately my wife has a will of her own.
I had to read about the woman who discovered my hero and helped to make her famous. There are insights into a lot of other wonderful cooks that Judith helped to get published.
If you are a cooking freak this is a must read book, if you just love to cook and to read about cooking this is a must read book, if you enjoy an interesting story about an interesting woman this is a good book for you.
Why only four stars? There are some parts of the book that I feel could have been left out, but that is an opinion with which many will differ.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious prose,
Judith Jones tells the story of her life's passion with cooking, which includes editing the cookbooks of legendary cooks such as Julia Child, Madhur Jaffrey, Marion Cunningham and Lidia Bastianich. Her tale begins with an anecdote that illuminates her mother's attitude toward food. Jones's elderly mother asked her to give her an honest answer about something important. Jones expected a larger topic than her mother's rather surprising question: "Tell me, Judith, do you really like garlic?" After admitting that she loved garlic, Jones's mother appeared thoroughly disheartened.
As a young girl, not only was garlic banned from the house, but onions could be used only when a particular stew was being prepared by the cook. The family did not eat adventurously, although the family cook did turn out some wonderful, homey "plain food"-type dishes (the descriptions of which might possibly make readers drool upon the book). In the winter, their produce consisted of "overgrown root vegetables," potatoes and cabbage. Yet young Judith managed to be a bit of a foodie, requesting not only a spaghetti and cheese dish but also artichokes for special lunches.
During her childhood, Jones delighted in spending time with relatives who loved to cook and with her father who treated her to lunches at a favorite French restaurant. There, she happily nibbled crepes, exotic sauces, onion soup and seafood. As a young teen, Jones delighted in cooking for her father while her mother vacationed. Although her first experiments were less than successful (thanks to broiling, instead of baking, dishes), she was undeterred in her determination to become a good cook. However, her joy in eating was sadly curbed by female relatives discussing her plumpness. While she was soon snacking on carrots, eventually Jones learned to balance her love of good food with a bit of discipline.
Jones began working at Doubleday in New York when she graduated from college. But she dreamed of Paris. Happily, she was able to leave her job to travel there, where she found not only luscious meals to devour but also food-loving friends who were thrilled to educate her in food and cooking. When her traveling companion returned to New York, Jones decided to stay on in an inexpensive hotel. She could only afford one meal a day, so she made that meal an adventure, experiencing delicacies such as veal brains. Her escapades in France included losing every penny she owned, opening an informal restaurant with a friend and meeting her husband, Evan, who enjoyed food and cooking as much as she did. When she worked for Doubleday in Paris, she discovered the French edition of ANNE FRANK: THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL, which she urgently (and successfully) recommended Doubleday publish.
Jones and her husband returned to New York eventually, where they were frustrated by the lack of quality ingredients in markets but persevered in their cooking adventures. She went to work as an editor for Knopf, where she discovered Julia Child, publishing her classic cookbook, MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING. Then, she went on to publish the work of many fine chefs, as well as to write cookbooks with her husband.
Jones's story is a gripping, well-paced page-turner filled with an infectious passion for food and cooking. Her own life is fascinating, and she brings legends such as James Beard, Craig Claiborne, Julia Child and many more to life through descriptions of their appearance and quirky personalities during her collaborations with them. Of course, the heart of the book is Jones's philosophy and respect for fabulous food, which she describes in luscious detail, sharing many of her favorite recipes. Reading her delicious prose should turn any reader into a more discerning eater and adventurous cook.
--- Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Part memoir, part travelogue, part cookbook,
The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food belongs on your shelf with Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun and Bill Buford's Heat. It will awaken your senses and make you long for a crusty bread, an artisan cheese and a fresh peach.
Author Judith Jones is a longtime editor at publisher Alfred A. Knopf Inc. and a lifetime epicurean. It would be a mistake to dismiss Jones as "just a cookbook editor," even though her authors include Julia Child, Marion Cunningham, and Lidia Bastianich. She's responsible for publishing The Diary of Anne Frank, and she edited the work of Anne Tyler and John Updike, among others.
It's apparent that her two loves, great literature and food, converged in a special way when she worked with Child and the other chefs. Jones gives her readers a glimpse into how she brings a cookbook to life as well as how she coaches a cook into a writer. Giving each chef a unique culinary viewpoint with the food and a unique voice as a writer was Jones' primary focus.
Starting with a childhood of bland English and New England fare, Jones recounts how she was born wanting more. More flavor, more variety, more goodness. After college and WWII she lived in Paris for several years where she met her late husband Evan Jones. Together they explored the food of different cultures and brought the best of it home to New York, then Vermont. They also excelled at finding the best local food available.
Personal details are sparse. Readers craving gossip about why she and Evan never had children or whether their relationship played a part in his divorce will be disappointed. But foodies who want to know if she really ate beaver liver and tail will get their answer.
Jones concludes the book with recipes from childhood, later discoveries including French and Asian favorites, and her newest passion: cooking for one. Pictures of Jones, her husband, and many of her authors are sprinkled throughout.
The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food is part memoir, part travelogue, part cookbook and is easily more than the sum of its parts.
Armchair Interviews agree
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little chilly at first, but give it time.,
Initially I found this memoir a disappointment. Ms. Jones has done as much as anyone alive to give us access to new culinary ideas, and it is fair to say that she championed the books that shaped our current gastronomic thinking, as well as editing them. Nonetheless, her account of all this can come across as superficial and chilly; the prose is well crafted, but it sounds as though she's talking about someone else, and not someone that she knows personally or cares about all that much. The book begins to sound more like a personal memoir when she introduces her country home, where there was emphasis on growing their own food as much as possible, and it comes alive when she talks about the loss of he husband of 50+ years, and how impossible it seemed to go on with something as simple as cooking dinner bcause they had always done it together. Her account of her grief and slow recovery is marvelous. She is never overly revealing but shows her humanity in a way that's both sympathetic and elegant. Her story of eating a beaver's tail, and how her account of it shocked and horrified readers, provides a fascinating counterpoint to her own gradual coming to life again after a loss that seemed catastrophic. As a fan of her late husband's food writing, I found myself thinking "Evan would have loved that story."
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very nice memoir. Lots of Cooking, Little Fire,
`The Tenth Muse' by book editor extraordinaire, Judith Jones is a memoir of her experiences with food and with writers about food, lead by virtually every luminary in that field in the latter half of the 20th century, including Julia Child, James Beard, Craig Claiborne, Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey, Lydia Bastianich, Marian Cunningham,Alice Waters, and Edna Lewis. I'm just a bit surprised that Penelope Casas, a major Knopf culinary author is not mentioned and I'm torn between believing that the muse of the title is `food' or `editing', especially since Ms. Jones' publishing house, Alfred A. Knopf, was the publishing home of another, even more prominent literary editor, H. L. Mencken. The original nine muses of Greek mythology primarily cover the subjects of music, poetry, drama, and rhetoric, so I suspect `editing' was covered. Thus, Ms. Jones can dedicate her book to the culinary deities.
This is clearly a charming and finely written memoir, which I am almost ashamed to find any fault whatsoever. But, if you are willing to plunk down your $24.95 retail, you are entitled to know what you are getting, and what you are not getting.
For starters, Ms. Jones enters a field filled with lots of fine exemplars of good, interesting culinary memoirs. Leading the pack is that hoary classic by George Orwell, `Down and Out in Paris and London'. Following closely behind and even more relevant, are the several memoirs written by M. F. K. Fisher about her travels in France. More recently, there are the three excellent volumes from `Gourmet' magazine editor in chief, Ruth Reichl, including `Garlic and Sapphires', `Tender at the Bone', and `Comfort Me With Apples'. Then, there is Jacques Pepin's `The Apprentice', Amanda Hesser's `Cooking for Mr. Latte' and the risqué `Insatiable', a collection of anecdotal memoirs by Ms. Gael Greene. Last, but certainly not least is Julia Child's own posthumous memoir, `My Life in France'. All of these books are thoroughly enjoyable for the foodie reader, and most are seem to be just a bit more substantial or more informative than Ms. Jones' book.
I was expecting far more detail on the inside story about how she came to publish the seminal `Mastering the Art of French Cooking', but there was practically nothing here I did not read in Ms. Child's biography and other writings on this episode. I was especially interested in the dealings with Alfred and Blanche Knopf, two giant figures in American publishing, who were initially a bit reluctant to get Knopf into the cookbook publishing business.
The framework on which the culinary stories are arranged is Ms. Jones early experiences in France and her marriage to journalist, Evan Jones and their lives in Europe and New England. There is nothing approaching the intimate interpersonal details we get from both Reichl and Greene. There is not even the sense of warmth felt between Julia and Paul Child in her memoir and biography.
The last quarter of the book is devoted to recipes and stories surrounding those recipes, collected from the many culinary / literary luminaries who Ms. Jones edited or simply corresponded or befriended. I usually discount recipes in memoirs, as this is the last place one is likely to look when in search of a particular recipe, even if you remember that this work contained recipes. I will make a major exception in the case of this book, as I find the comments among some of the most writing in the book. I was especially attracted to the recipe I tried for sauce gribiche, a superb condiment to enliven leftover roasted meats, specifically my favorite lamb. And, the fact that the book contained eight other recipes for lamb warmed me to these recipes.
Thus, if one has read many of the books I mentioned above, especially those telling the story of Julia Child, one may not find anything too exciting here. And, if you own several cookbooks you know and love, the recipes will be nice to read, but you may not find anything dramatic enough to lure you away from your favorites. It's a very nice read, but not as informative, titillating, or illuminating as some of its contemporary works.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious Descriptions of Eating Well,
This review is from: The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food (Paperback)
"But, for all the seductions of Italy and the Cote d' Azur that Sarah and I traveled along by train, stopping at little seaside towns like Cassis, it was Paris that captured my heart."
~ pg. 19
If you are interested in cooking at all then Judith Jones' "The Tenth Muse" is required reading. In this book she tells the story of her life and how it intermingled with the culinary stars of her day.
I loved how she starts the book reminiscing about Chocolate Steamed Pudding and Apple Brown Betty. She then explains her involvement with various cooks I'd never heard of like Irene Kuo and Claudia Roden. I got the feeling that she nurtured each author in such a way as to make them much more successful. I felt this was especially true as she describes working with Julia Child.
Throughout the book you will get a sense of how adventurous Judith Jones is. She will really try just about anything that sounds good. I think this is one of the reasons she was so successful working with authors who introduced foreign foods to a willing American audience. In this book she seems to focus on French, Indian, Chinese and Japanese foods.
Judith Jones truly conveys the excitement of new discoveries with a tantalizing relish. I loved her warm captivating writing style that draws you into her intriguing stories that are filled with delicious descriptions. A fifth of this book is also dedicated to her favorite recipes.
Ever since I received a very nice rejection letter from Judith Jones I've always been mildly curious about her life. She helped me immensely by stating that my instructions in my recipes were too truncated. That made me change my style of writing. She also liked the headers so that gave me some encouragement to publish my book myself. So even though Knopf didn't want to publish my book Judith Jones was influential in my life because she gave me a renewed sense of confidence I didn't have before.
~The Rebecca Review
Author of Seasoned with Love: A collection of best-loved recipes inspired by over 40 cultures
Most Helpful First | Newest First
The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food by Judith Jones (Paperback - October 14, 2008)