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Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess Hardcover – April 4, 2006

3.2 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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  • Amazon.com Exclusive: Read an exclusive essay from longtime New York magazine restaurant critic Gael Greene as she writes about one of her most memorable dining experiences.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As the title of her longtime New York magazine column (which ran from 1968 to 2000) suggests, Greene was indeed an "Insatiable Critic" and not just where food was concerned. Her fun memoir spices up the standard chronicle of food supped and wine sipped with breathless descriptions of sexual trysts, travel tales and signature fashions. Greene's sensual appetite was voracious and her affairs as abundant and indulgent as her meals; her more famous lovers included Elvis Presley, Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds. With chapter titles like "Splendor in the Foie Gras" and "Bonfire of the Foodies," the book brims with vivid and gluttonously gossipy prose, though it's occasionally repetitive, especially regarding the recent growth of "foodie" culture. At heart a singular story of Greene's gustatory and personal development, the book is also a history of culinary culture since the 1960s. She mentions world events that were occurring as she pursued her sybaritic lifestyle; describes her idols, contemporaries and famous chefs; and depicts spectacular meals throughout France, New York and beyond. This delicious read tells the story of America's haute cuisine awakening as written by the woman who had a seat at the table. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In this freewheelingly sensuous autobiography, restaurant critic and novelist Greene casts the path of her life as an education of her appetites. Born into an unexceptional postwar midwestern home, Greene knew little about taste. Her hunger for good food led her from a successful career as a magazine writer to a coveted position as one of Manhattan's most respected restaurant critics. Simultaneous development into womanhood followed a no-less-stellar trajectory. Her male conquests, begun in earnest when she gained access in Detroit to a visiting Elvis Presley's hotel suite, continue through a host of celebrities and a remarkable doomed marriage. Her culinary appetite takes her to France and a vision of perfection at Fernand Point's temple of French gastronomy. Greene had the great good fortune to become a food critic just as American culture was awakening to a newfound infatuation with all tastes French, Italian, and Chinese, just as the same culture liberated women to revel in other appetites their bodies might hunger after. Greene joyfully and unabashedly celebrates both food and sex, having her own way with both. Recipes (for food) included. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Warner Books; 1st edition (April 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446576999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446576994
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,349,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
`Insatiable' is a collection of anecdotal memoirs by Ms. Gael Greene of the overshadowingly broad brimmed hats and long time food writer and restaurant critic of `New York' magazine. While the 51 chapters do touch on Ms. Greene's life before `New York', they generally stay very close to their `New York' wellspring, her column, named `The Insatiable Gourmet' by magazine editor in chief, Clay Felker.

The most immediate comparison which comes to mind is to the three volumes of memoirs by current `Gourmet' editor in chief, Ruth Reichl who, for several years, sat in Craig Claiborne's chair as principle restaurant reviewer for `The New York Times' and whose most recent book, `Garlic and Sapphires' deals entirely with her `New York Times' restaurant reviews and her tactics for maintaining her anonymity while in the hunt for excellence at New York's finer eateries. And, as similar as these two women's careers may be, the differences make both bodies of work that much more interesting.

While Reichl, the younger of the two by at least a decade, grew up in New York City and learned French at a very early age, her professional culinary journalistic career was shaped on the west coast, firmly under the influence of the American food vanguard lead by the California vintners, Alice Waters, Jeremiah Tower, and Wolfgang Puck. Greene grew up in provincial Detroit, but had her culinary instincts formed by the emerging community of French restaurants in New York City. Her center of culinary gravity was in the dining rooms, kitchens, and cellars of the great French culinary establishment. She even admits that she came late to the California culinary movement.
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Format: Hardcover
I absorb "foodie" books at the rate that some breathe. Reichl, Bourdain, Child, Buxton and others are the source of hours of fond distraction from my too-busy-to-do-anything life and my aspirations to understand food the way I understand my professional work -- intuitively, technically and personally.

I had read that this book was more of a bawdy personal history than others, but I always adore the personal details of the writers, and am hardly a prude. Nevertheless, I could hardly muster an ounce of empathy for the gratuitous sexual self-objectification of the author who viewed restaurants more as stars in a social strata than producers of cuisine. I did not care about her tortured relationship with a porn star, whom she fed and bedded on her employer's dime. I grew exasperated as she ended a chapter about three marriages with a confession that she wrote it without understanding the point, and still, after writing it and choosing to include it in her book, she did not. The simple reality is that a writer is speaking to a reader, and Ms. Green's reader appeared to be...Ms. Green. While it is apparent that others enjoyed this book, I would suspect that a day with "Garlic and Sapphires" would disabuse anyone of the notion that this is a delightful memoir, and instead expose it for the indulgence that it is.
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Format: Paperback
If Reichl's memoirs were a nourishing meal, then Greene's is a bag of chips. Reichl's trilogy about her life in food is ultimately about developing relationships, and discovering how to make a meaningful life.

Greene's book, in contrast, reads as a series of lists 1) foods she has eaten 2) men she has slept with 3) celebrities she has known. There is no real character development, nor any personal insights.

True, she has enjoyed amazing, sumptious meals, but to what end? There is no meaning to her life beyond the endless quest for rich meals on her employer's dime. Her sexual appetite, although clearly prodigious, leads her to make empty choice after empty choice. Some people will wish that they shared Greene's luck that allowed her to live a completely self-indulgent life. But most sensible people will be grateful that they haven't haven't wasted every moment pursuing nothing.

An empty life leads to an empty book--a bit ironic considering the title. Reichl's books, though far less sexual, are fare more sensual and satisfying.
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I was so looking forward to another food critic's life story like Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphire - one of the best books I have ever read.

I was seriously dissappointed. I realize that at the time Greene became a food critic, critics were well known by the restauranteurs and treated like Queens with special menus the rest of the people dining did not ever see, but I had no idea how bad it was. To think everyones opinion was determined by a few egotistical food critics in New York who never ate the way the rest of the people did is disgusting. Couple this with her flamboyant use of her magazines money to pay for all her meals (and her lovers meals) and you can't find a reason to enjoy the true life of Gael Greene.

Frankly, for me, her little splurge with a porn star was the most interesting part of the book, but then she would move on to sleep with the very chefs she was reviewing.

Halfway through the book it became a real snore with very little mention of food - which is why a foodie would buy such a book. Instead it was one celebrity name after another, one bit of gossip after another and list after list of names of chefs and all their restaurants and if they made it or not. It was more one long dull gossip column than a book.
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