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Cakewalk: A Memoir Hardcover – May 11, 2010
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Novelist Moses recounts her life’s journey, planting its mileposts by the foods that have figured in her personal history. As emphasis, she provides a relevant recipe with each chapter. The foods that have meant most to her fall into the category of American comfort foods, her tastes leaning toward the decidedly simple. Traversing the country from California to Pennsylvania as a schoolgirl, she relished what was for her the novelty of McDonald’s but she at the same time was developing a taste for more exotic fare such as fried clams. Her family moved often, and her parents eventually divorced. Moses reflects on how all of this uncertainty affected her eating preferences. Landing an editorial position at Berkeley’s North Point Press, she encountered writers on the order of Kay Boyle and the estimable M. F. K. Fisher, and they helped to broaden and to ground her tastes, both literary and gustatory. --Mark Knoblauch
“Kate Moses is a great and gifted storyteller, and in this very funny, smart and lyrical account of one family’s complex history, she gives us a cross between the childhood memoirs of Augusten Burroughs and a story of culinary education, such as Julie and Julia.
It’s a good thing Cakewalk is a book and not a cake, because it’ s the kind of work you just devour, great chunks at a time. Anyone interested in love, family, or baked goods will want to read and own this remarkable book–two copies, ideally, one for the kitchen and one somewhere a little more pristine, where it won’ t become coated in flour and butter as the reader tries out the many mouthwatering recipes.”—Sylvia Brownrigg, author of The Metaphysical Touch
“What we have here is no less than a collection of Proustian madeleines for the modern age. Spanning a childhood spent being uprooted from all the good places and trapped in all the lonely ones, Moses conjures up Alaska in her cookies, backwoods California in her blackberry jam and the warmth and stability of the good family life we all long for in a towering spiced pecan birthday cake.
Cooking memoirs are all the rage. What makes this one special is that this is a truly gifted writer who just happens to be as experimental and adventuresome in the kitchen as she is at the keyboard. A crazy, richly compelling tale of learning to sweeten her way through good times and bad.” —Mary Pols, author of Accidentally on Purpose: A One-Night Stand, My Unplanned Parenthood, and Loving the Best Mistake I Ever Made
"Although this gorgeous memoir made me laugh, made me wistful, even made me cry, the overwhelming sensation I experienced was of hunger, the kind of empty desperation that only a thick piece of coconut layer cake or a chewy fudge brownie can cure. Those cravings were the only things that could force me to put this marvelous book down. And because Kate Moses provides a complete literary and gustatory experience, within an hour or so, I had my own, (albeit less competent) versions of those delicacies to enjoy with the next chapter."—Ayelet Waldman, author of Bad Mother
"That Kate Moses survived her past to write about it with such generosity, optimism, and affection, is a miracle; she is made of strong stuff, and her memoir attests not only to the tensile strength of her character, but to her crazy-beautiful talents as a writer."—Heidi Julavits, author of The Uses of Enchantment
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She starts her story off as a colorful romp with an equally colorful mother and a more staid father, but there is precious little adult-insight (and the author is presently a middle-aged woman who is clearly a navel-gazer ...).
So we move across the country with her and nothing she described felt that interesting, unique; it certainly was never elucidating in why she (or her publisher) find her life story interesting enough to share with others rather than a diary or blog.
Most of us luckily live rather middle-of-the-road lives, even with the highs and lows. What makes reading someone's life story compelling is the exploration and honesty of all of those, so-so to extremes, both of which were missing here.
It felt incredibly self-indulgent and it left me thinking she needs to see her therapist more often. I know that sounds snotty and I don't mean it that way: she has issues. Maybe she felt that by writing some of them down but only skimming over a lot of them she'd exorcise her issues. But she was neither thorough nor honest, and a good therapist will push her to do those. Also, I resent being asked to pay for her working out her issues when I don't get a fascinating insight along the way.
Now, the two stars is because I liked the recipes, and I've used her chocolate chip cookie recipe as a terrific starting-off point for my own adaptation. They are **delicious**!
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