Check It Out: Taste others' lives with kitchen memoirs

Cookbook writing is in its heyday and writing about food and cooking and families has never been more popular. Books such as "Julia and Julia: 365 Days, 534 Recipes and 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen" have even been made into mainstream movies. Cooking and food blogs abound on the Internet and some bloggers such as Ree Drummond, "The Pioneer Woman," have created blogs which have become so popular that best selling cookbooks have been published as a result. The Newport Beach Public Library has those and many others to savor and enjoy.

Gabrielle Hamilton's "Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef" chronicles her dysfunctional childhood and unconventional life. Written in a lyrical literary style, this book tells of her early years in Pennsylvania with a mother who was a former ballerina and a father who was a theater designer. Their divorce created havoc in her early life. Her teen years were rebellious, her youth underachieving, her marriage short-lived but her will to be successful led her to become the owner of a successful Manhattan restaurant, Prune.

Unlike Hamilton, Grant Achatz had a more conventional childhood. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, and worked for both Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller. In "Life, on the Line : A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat," the author, along with his business partner Nick Kokonas, describe the genesis of their Chicago restaurant, Alinea. The authors alternate narratives which talk about the business side of their restaurant life as well as Achatz's life-threatening battle with stage-four tongue cancer.

Beth M. Howard was seven hours away from her husband signing their divorce papers when she found out he had died of a ruptured aorta. That news brought grief and anger, and she decided to take her husband's RV on a driving tour throughout the country to assuage her feelings. As a well-known pie maker, she decided she would shoot a documentary and bake to work her way back to inner peace. "Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie" is her ode.

"Charlotte au Chocolat: Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood" tells of the author's childhood in Cambridge, Mass. Daughter of a restaurant family, Charlotte Silver grew up in Upstairs at the Pudding, the restaurant which shared space with Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Club. "My life was not a child's life of jungle gyms and Velcro sneakers," Silver writes, "but of soft lights, stiff petticoats, rolling pins smothered in flour, and candied violets in wax paper." Like a young Eloise at the Plaza Hotel in New York, Silver's unusual early life is recalled in this slender volume.

David Lebovitz, author of four dessert cookbooks and formerly the pastry chef for Chez Panisse in Berkeley has written "The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious — and Perplexing — City." Having moved to Paris after the death of his partner, Lebovitz spent some time trying to figure out what was so intoxicating about Paris. Having decided it was not the antiquated plumbing or tiny space of his apartment, he set out to try the Parisian sweets. Filled with humor (and recipes) this tale is a real treat.

You'll find these and many other cooking memoirs at the Newport Beach Public Library. Happy reading and bon appétit.

CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public Library. All titles may be reserved from home or office computers by accessing the catalog at For more information, contact the Newport Beach Public Library at (949) 717-3800, option 2.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World