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It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: My Adventures in Life and Food
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It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: My Adventures in Life and Food

3.08 of 5 stars 3.08  ·  rating details  ·  131 ratings  ·  40 reviews
The daughter of a British Foreign Service officer, Moira Hodgson spent her childhood in many a strange and exotic land. She discovered American food in Saigon, ate wild boar in Berlin, and learned how to prepare potatoes from her eccentric Irish grandmother. Today, Hodgson has a well-deserved reputation as a discerning critic whose columns in the New York Observer were dev...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 20th 2009 by Nan A. Talese (first published 2009)
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The author has experienced a fascinating, globetrotting childhood, thanks to her father's job in MI6/the British Foreign Office. In this book, Hodgson recounts the various foods she has eaten throughout her life's adventures and misadventures. Unfortunately, despite her scintillating subject matter, Hodgson has no sense of suspense or narrative. She gives the same weight to taking a ballet class as she does to being a player in Cold War geopolitics, describing both in cursory, leaden prose.

After thoroughly enjoying Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl, I was eagerly anticipating this book, with the added bonus of a travelogue included. Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to my expectations. Although Ms. Hodgson has had an eventful life, her somewhat soulless descriptions of her travels left me feeling as if I were reading an itinerary rather than a memoir. The recipes included seemed old fashioned and for lack of a better word, yucky. I'...more
I think I have very high standards for memoirs, so they rarely meet my expectations. And this is one of those. It started out so well, with the author describing the many places she'd lived growing up as the child of a diplomat and the foods she'd eaten there.

But like so many memoirs, once she became an adult, she seemed to become both bored by her life, and reticent to share the details and the emotions behind it. This makes sense-- it's a sensitive topic to explain (for example) how you felt...more
Surprisingly, the text is staccato for three-quarters of the book, and only smooths out when the author, who is a food writer, begins to explain her modern life. Although the prose evens out, the content becomes rushed and less thoughtful, as if she had missed the publisher's deadline. Although she spends pages on her father's death, she only mentions that both her parents are dead now. There is nothing to indicate in the book that she disliked her mother so that her death didn't affect her as m...more
It seemed like a good idea at the time. Moira Hodgson has traveled the world, living for many years abroad, even as a child, as she was taken along with her family as her father, in the service of the British Foreign Service is stationed in Saigon or other exotic locales. She becomes a food journalist and meets and befriends many writers and artists.

I enjoyed the early parts of the book, much more than the walk of fame that became the second half. I found her childhood recollections of life in E...more
If you know anything about me, you know that I adore food/travel memoirs. This afternoon, in the company of my naughty, pine needle eating cats, I finished Moira Hodgson’s It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, in which she recounts her childhood in exotic places thanks to her British diplomat father up to her adult life. Currently Hodgson is a restaurant critic for the New York Observer, and this book gives you a great look into how she got to where she is now.

Her upbringing seemed quite glamo...more
More interesting than I expected but left me feeling like I wanted more. Very interesting childhood living in quite a few countries (Egypt, Switzerland, Vietnam, Germany), quite a bohemian after moving to NY in her early 20s, adventurous travel to Mexico and Morocco. Unfortunately her writing style is lackluster and a bit flat. Shame, because I think her life has the makings of a much better memoir. She spends quite a bit of time telling us about growing up with her grandparents (her grandmother...more
The author's father was in the British diplomatic corps before switching to be an agent for M16 (British secret service). Her memoir tells of foreign lands where they lived, moving every 2 years to a new post. Egypt, Singapore, Beirut,Vietnam (pre American war), Sweden, divided Berlin before the wall. They met and entertained many celebrities of the day. Throughout the book there are recipes for exotic foods from all her travels. As an adult, she lived in NYC when Dean and Delucca was "a small n...more
Mo Tipton
I love travel and food writing, so I had high hopes for this book, but while Hodgson's life is certainly eventful, her descriptions are anything but. After following her through nearly thirty years of her life, I didn't feel as if I knew anything more about her as a person other than where she had been, what she had eaten, and famous people she had met.

Also, her recollections of important events seemed so grossly understated that I found myself wondering if she was actually an android or just i...more
June Seghni
This lady has had an eventful life, and at first I romantic..foreign travel, boarding school (my childhood fantasy, thanks to Enid Blyton), writing, good food, and famous people..she met Paul Bowles ,for pete's sake..! And then I felt deflated at how easily she got various jobs with newspapers and magazines. I felt slightly aggrieved at how some people seem to be born into the right places, move in the right circles etc,so that they have all these wonderful experiences. I guess the...more
I really tried to like this book but was never able to find any real substance in this woman's story. She had all of the elements for an intriguing memoir, having traveled all over the world, a couple of traumatic events, and stories of being a food writer. Even one particular life-altering event in her life, which I won't spoil by giving away, felt glossed over. Also, the constant namedropping of, for the most part, commonly unknown people I found off-putting and boring. Bottom line, Hodgson ne...more
Moira Hodgson is the daughter of a British Foreign Service officer and, because of that, her life has been a peripatetic one. She’s lived in 12 countries and meals provided a sense of continuity because food, as much as any other cultural icon, was an invariable link to a place or nation. Life has been a series of adventures and meals, the one not necessarily excluding the other. Without going overboard on details, she manages to bring to life her memories of engaging, humorous and fun-filled mo...more
This book has taken me a minute to get into and to appreciate the way it's written. The perspective is from Moira, as a child, retelling the adventures she had as a child while she lived all around the world. She's the daughter of a diplomat and had to move every 2 months.

I'm enjoying her antics as a frisky and precocious child and I'm enjoying the colorful characters she meets as she travels. As she gets older, she jumps from job to job, from city to city.

She ends up becoming a writer and a che...more
I liked it. It's not a "foodie" book and it's not a travel book and it's not really a memoir in the traditional sense. She just tells about her life and the traveling she's done and the food she's eaten.

She's been to places that don't really exist anymore and I found that fascinating. She lived in Berlin after the war but before the Wall went up. She lived in Lebanon when it was a posh posting for the Foreign Service.

I think it would be difficult to cook from any of her recipes - they call for...more
Moira Hodgson combines several of my favorite topics in this book. She tells great stories about her family, her travels and food. Hodgson is the daughter of a British Foreign Service officer who was fortunate enough to live in Egypt, Vietnam and Germany among other places.

As a free spirit she made her own fortune - finding ways to support herself and continue to travel.

There were parts of this book that reminded me of Penelope Lively because of their interesting childhood and other parts (the f...more
I was hoping for something closer to Jeffrey Steingarten or even Ruth Reichl's books, but this half-memoir/half-food writing book was (no joke intended) neither fish nor fowl. There were a few amusing anecdotes, especially about Hodgson's childhood jumping from country to country as her father worked for in the British diplomatic corps, but in general I found this book quite dull.
This is Hodgson's memoirs "in life and food". She's British, now living in US and columnist for the NY Observer (at least when she wrote book). I recommend it for those who like memoirs, travel and food writing. Her father was in the British Foreign Service so interesting accounts of living abroad and taking ships for travel, starting in the 1950s. A good read.
Aug 31, 2010 Darla rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: food
Another book for foodies. Hodgson has been a journalist for years, often writing about food. A sort of less sexy and earlier version of Eat, Pray, Love. Ok if you like reading about food - which I do. Otherwise you'll probably be bored.
The author is a food writer and restaurant critic in New York though she was born in England and lived in many parts of the world as the daughter of an English diplomat. The book starts off well, but it does tend to get bogged down in the minutiae of her life - TMI.
A fairly interesting account of the author's life as daughter of a British diplomat/spy, and her interest and career in food. Sometimes annoying for name-dropping, careless introduction of characters and disjointedness. But interesting, for the most part.
Moira is a restaurant critic for New York Observer. She traveled around the world as a child because her dad was a British foreign service officer. Her life is so different from mine. I found the book interesting but it did not touch me.
I am happy to give this 3.75 stars. It was highly enjoyable and has the distinct fame of being able to be picked up mid-stream and you are right back in it. I don't know why others gave this such low marks. I was entertained throughout.
Sarah Hine
This was a fun little daydream of a book. A memoir of a life well lived, well traveled, and well savored. Nothing heavy or serious, or even terribly insightful, but it was a sweet little escape perfect for the train.
This started off very promisingly, but quickly became boring. It was set up to be a food memoir, but ended up being more memoir about 1/4 of the way through the book and become a bit self-indulgent at times.
Fun stories of Hodgson's childhood growing up with her father in the British foreign service and all of her associated moves/living experiences. A very entertaining read (if you like food writing).
I really enjoyed this book - her life is amazing, the people and the places, and of course I really love how food and cooking and recipes are woven throughout ... a life story through food
Fascinating! Her real-life experiences read like a novel. She was in some amazing places at amazing times. Just wish she hadn't rushed through at the end...I wanted to read more details!
Hodgson has led a very interesting life, and overall I enjoyed reading about it. However, I felt the book could have had more of a narrative structure. Something was missing.
I thought this would be great, food and travel my favorite things - it's been hard to get in it though - I think I'm going to try something else from my stack...
A little too much of "these are the famous people I hung out with and this is the fabulous food that we ate" for me. I would have appreciated some emotional growth.
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