Posts Tagged ‘France’

If You’re Hungry for Inspiration…

I read The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School a couple of years ago…so while I’m a little rusty in terms of reviewing it, I feel it’s fully deserving of a blog entry.  First of all, I should clarify, I didn’t read it, I listened to it.  The audio version of Kathleen Flinn’s book caught my eye at a bookstore as I was on the eve of a new job that I wasn’t looking forward to starting.  The book looked inspirational, so I splurged and bought it.

I was so glad I did.  First of all, the story was read by Cassandra Campbell who did a wonderful job of reading the story with appropriate emotion, but without exaggerating voices and emotions as some audio book readers are wont to do.  There was something calming and rhythmic about the way that she read the cooking scenes in particular – her descriptions of chopping, slicing, and dicing were downright calming on my commute.

Moreover, the book itself has a perfect balance that many foodie memoirs lack.  Flinn found the right balance of sharing details of her personal life without giving too much intimate information, while still making this a true foodie book. 

After getting laid off from a successful job in London, Flinn decided to pursue her dream of going to Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris.  She had always dreamed of going to Paris and of attending culinary school, and the way in which she pursued it is truly inspiring.  Her path is not always an easy one – not every recipe is successful, but it makes it all the more rewarding when she does master a tecnnique, a sauce, or a dough.  She has a charming way of telling a story, and I was delighted to discover her blog and website while working on this entry – she is equally candid online and her posts remind me why I respect her as a foodie and writer.  Best of all, it seems like there are more Flinn books in the works!


A Review of Clementine in the Kitchen

I recently finished reading Clementine in the Kitchen by Samuel Chamberlain, a nonfiction account of an American family with a French Cordon Bleu trained chef.  I was intrigued by the story as it is partly set in nearby Marblehead, MA, and it is part of a series that Ruth Reichl was editor of.

The Chamberlain family spent many years living in France and returns to America around the start of World War II.  The book accounts the family’s transition from France to America as the French-born and trained Clementine accompanies them.

From some perspectives the book is amusing and enlightening as it allows the reader to compare and contrast many points: France and America today, France and America during World War II, America during World War II and today, food trends then and now, and American lifestyle then and now.  Clementine arrived in America speaking only French, and knowing only French culture, so her naivetes to American culture are amusing.  However, at points, the Chamberlains nearly refer to her as property, which is not amusing.

At many points, the book is a dry account of high society life in Marblehead in the 1940s and nearly half of the book is actually a list of arcane French recipes.  They’re worth a scan, but there was little there that I could envision making today.  In addition, much of the terminology in the recipes is out of date.

Clementine is a likeable figure in the story, and the book would be interesting to a food historian, but is probably a bit dry for the average reader.  Reichl’s introduction is as entertaining as her writing always is, though.  Not a read for everyone, but good for some!