Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life
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Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life

3.39 of 5 stars 3.39  ·  rating details  ·  713 ratings  ·  112 reviews
From the prominent New York Times food writer, a memoir recounting the tough life lessons she learned from a generation of female cooks-including Marion Cunningham, Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, Rachael Ray, and Marcella Hazan.

Somewhere between the lessons her mother taught her as a child and the ones she is now trying to teach her own daughter, Kim Severson stumbled. She l...more
Hardcover, 242 pages
Published April 15th 2010 by Riverhead Hardcover
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Katherine
An interesting and pleasant read, but I had a couple of limitations with it.

First of all, Severson really strains on occasion to make the connection between her personal story and those of the people she's profiling. Her story is interesting, their stories are interesting, and they even fit fairly well together most of the time, making the "I'm an alcoholic! Marion Cunningham was an alcoholic!" moments feel forced and unnecessary. She would have been better off letting the reader make the connec...more
Rama
An interesting memoir with a touch of food

This is an interesting memoir of the author who finds friends, life, creativity, career, and artistic side of cooking after her own addiction to alcohol. The author journeys from California to Alaska and finally to New York, and narrates her experience in this little book with a style that everyone would enjoy. This is not really a cookbook, but a book about her interaction with eight prominent women in cooking profession who influenced her in her career...more
Monica Williams
Severson is a mother, daughter, partner, alcoholic (even those who no longer drink still consider themselves to be alcholics), reporter, and food writer. Some how a long the line she lost something of herself and through the work and writings of eight cooks she found herself. Marion Cunningham taught her that you can always start over, even later in life. Severson looked upon Ruth Reichel(former food critic of the NY Times) as this untouchable goddess always part of the "in" crowd, but discovers...more
Lex
Based on this book and Frank Bruni's book, I'm going to go ahead and say that being completely neurotic and self-absorbed is a prerequisite to being a NYT food writer.

The bits of the book about her relationship with her mom and her mom's cooking were redeeming, though.. very sweet.
Michele
Definitely no Ruth Reichl. I didn't care for this book because it was like the reader was watching someone try to find themselves through therapy. Maybe if she wasn't so insecure and focused more on the interesting points of her life, this book wouldn't have felt like torture.
Linds
The author rubbed me the wrong way at times, but I liked the parts about her relationship with her mother and enjoyed learning about the chefs/food people that she profiles in the book.
Erin
it was somewhat entertaining, but overall, I thought it was sort of 'choppy' reading it......it zig-zaged in time and in thought.
Ashland Mystery Oregon
Spoon Fed is about the making and maturation of a food writer. Kim Severson grew up well loved and taken care of as a member of the Severson tribe - spoon fed, perhaps, but always feeling an outsider. Alcohol fueled her early adult years and nearly destroyed her even as Severson honed her craft, writing for the Alaska Daily News. Severson's culinary narrative traces her writing at the San Francisco Chronicle and later at the New York Times. Spoon fed might also refer to the eight women who are f...more
Jacqie
This is a well-written, dishy little food memoir. Kim Severson is bravely honest about her past addictions, relationship problems, and feelings about God without becoming maudlin. It will help to know the players in her book; such as Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, and Marcella Hazan. The author is probably going to get some flak for her characterizations of some famous people. She talks about their flaws, albeit with affection.
I was surprised by the foodie community reaction (according to Severson)...more
Heather
I loved this book! I think I heard about it on a blog and don't recall much about what the blogger said but put it on my library list and up it popped and I started reading. From the beginning I really liked it. At times I felt like the writing or story telling was sort of choppy yet it all came together, every story. I loved the recipes (and now want to buy the book to have access to them) and just, in general, really appreciated her life lessons. I feel like she is a bit of a kindred spirit.

O...more
Bettyann
An awesome writer, Kim Severson. First work I've read of hers, but I'll be looking for more. Not only did I learn a lot about cooking--Italian style, a favorite--I learned some things about myself, if you can believe that. Of course, this is a coming-of-age story, and sometimes we come of age all over again by reading certain books. This was one of them.

I liked her story about the painted black dining room table and inheriting it from her parents when they downsize to a condo:

"It's the dining ro...more
Patrice Sartor
I found this title very easy to read; Severson's writing flows easily and smoothly. I chuckled out loud in a few spots. I also liked reading the author's views on the 8 female cooks that "saved her life". I was unfamiliar with some of them, and enjoyed learning about them. The descriptions and discussions of food are solid, and I was tempted to try several of the included recipes as a result. I didn't, though a friend told me that all of the recipes are on Severson's web site. Cool.

What keeps th...more
Emily
I met the author when she came to Google to do research on our organic garden. She's quite the trip (like, a powerhouse, funny, self deprecating, self aware, assertive), so when I heard she was writing a book I made a mental note to read it. I did enjoy it -- if you like food gossip you will like this, as there is a lot of it about Ruth Reichl, Alice Waters, etc. It made me want to BE a food writer. As if I didn't already. It was also just a fun look at California and the Bay Area in a certain t...more
cat
i am a sucker for foodie memoirs - food + words = my perfect book. and addd in that it is by a woman food writer/critic with an illustrious career at such vaunted institutions as the NY Times? and that she is a dyke? *and* that chronicles the ways that 8 other famous female chefs mentored her, taught her life lessons, or otherwise contributed to her general well being and you have got a winner, my friends! except, well, that it wasn't. i expected to have this be a 5 star review, and instead it i...more
Heather
I'm in awe of the people Severson has met, and I like how she wove her experiences with them into this book. I found the Rachael Ray chapter the most intriguing, and grew somewhat bored of the other parts. The entire Alice Waters chapter had me kind of annoyed at how defensive Severson was over Waters. Not my favorite foodie memoir.
Kaitlyn Barrett
The book is good but not great. The writing feels studied and stilted like she’s forcing it. Despite every indication to the contrary, I couldn’t see Severson as a cook and I don’t know why. Maybe because the chefs seemed to matter more than the food? Maybe Severson's star struck demeanor? Maybe the way she approached these 8 cooks as celebrities first and chefs second?

Even though Severson says otherwise, I feel like she got into food because it was available. She learned to be a student of food...more
Jennifer
Overall delightful read/memoir about San Francisco Chronicle and eventually NY Times food writer Kim Severson's experiences with food, how they were shaped, and interviews/musings on several food icons like Marcella Hazan, Rachel Ray, Marion Cunningham, Alice Waters, her mom, Ruth Riechl, Edna Lewis and Leah Chase. I particularly loved the beginning where she relocates from Alaska to San Francisco, falls in love with Alice Waters, Meyer lemons and all things California cuisine. Severson has a gr...more
Karen
Full disclosure: I'm obsessed with who and what influences people to do what they do (chefs, writers, artists). So, this book was right up my alley.

Kim Severson, a journalist, chronicles her main influencers from her mother to Ruth Reichel. It's an interesting glance into the crazy food writing world, particularly from its infancy to today, where it is a huge industry.

Severson is a great writer, but there was something about the book that didn't click 100% - I loved all the stories, but they di...more
James
I enjoy a good memoir and I fancy myself a foody, so what would be better than reading a memoir by a New York Times food writer?

Well this is not great literature. The subtitle "How Eight Cooks Saved My Life" is a bit hyperbolic in most cases. Really these are eight cooks who Kim Severson, respects, learned a lot from, and useful literary devices employed by Severson to describe her personal development. And then she shares some of their recipes at the end of each chapter.

Some of the recipes lo...more
Maija
Kim Severson writes about various famous foodies/writers/cooks that had influence on her as she found her own way in her food journalism career. If you've read other foodie bio/memoirs or the food history - United States of Arugula, this will cover some stories you may have already heard.

It was a quick read and I enjoyed most of it, but I just didn't love it. Part of it was how did she end with this foodie job with very little experience or knowledge? And, like I said, some of the stories were...more
Margaret
Overall, the book was a bit of a disappointment in the sense that the author never really persuaded me that her life was "saved" by any/most of the cooks. I really enjoyed, however, the glimpse into the personal lives of well-known foodies like Alice Waters and Ruth Reichl as well as Severson's development as a food writer. I think that the book would've benefited from being framed as a broader memoir about family, sexuality, & addiction in addition to being about food. As a result, the book...more
Danika
Very quick and enjoyable memoir. The author spends each chapter on a different woman who has influenced her life as a food writer. The chapters cover her own mother along with such legends as Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl and Marcella Hazan. I'd recommend this to anyone who is into food writers, esp those who have Italian heritage, as does the author. Note that the author spends a fair portion of the book talking about her own life struggles (it IS a memoir), which include her alcoholism and coming...more
Lisa
Reading books about food is an indulgence that I allow myself regularly, but confessional memoirs make me nervous. Will the writer be smug? Narcissistic? Falsely modest? Kim Severson quickly won me over. By the end of Spoon Fed I felt like she was one of my oldest friends, a buddy from Girl Scout camp say, with whom I'd broken a few rules, whispered secrets to deep into the night and would stand by forever. There are fun stories here about iconic chefs and culinary luminaries, but the main reaso...more
Meg
I love books about/by chefs. I think I was meant to be a chef in another life. :) When I saw this, I grabbed it...a book about a woman chef? Lovely.

The book was well written...a bit hard for me to get into...but after I did, it was an interesting read...and talked about some interesting chefs I had never heard of.
I'll probably forget the book in a couple of months, nothing too memorable, but the author managed to write a lot about herself, while sharing stories about the women who have inspired...more
Emily
Like for the author, food was definitely a connection to my parents, to love, to relationship. The journey we take with Kim is interesting....we know she's a darn good journalist, a darn good food writer, but the personal investment in getting to know her subjects (the great food writers and cooks of our time) and getting their approval has echoes in our own lives. It's not a perfect book...the tied up loose ends at the end seem a bit forced to me....but the rewards along the way are great. And...more
Cheryl
May 14, 2010 Cheryl added it
This can be a life altering book. Here's a food writer that puts into words why some of us are so demanding, so obsessed with the path between the kitchen and the table. Author Kim Severson might have walked a different path to these realizations but the answers are the same. This is a must read for anyone who's ever eaten a plate of spaghetti at the family table or hung over a saute pan of chicken cordon bleu wondering if it would be presentable for Mothers' Day dinner. I've already bought thre...more
Jennifer
It took a little while to get into the book, but I did find that I warmed to the author and found the women she writes about intriguing. Despite the fact that the book is a collection of personal anecdotes about the reader, it quickly became more of a "who's who" of American chefs, which interested me. I was also excited to see that I've read enough "foodie" books now that different authors are now recounting the same stories and I'm familiar with the names they drop before they describe them! A...more
Sarah
At first I was somewhat disappointed at the way this book was panning out. However, I am glad I stuck with it as it improved as it moved along. Kim not only discusses the female cooks who made a difference in her life but also her struggle to accept herself as who she is: an alcoholic, a lesbian, and someone who never feels as though she measures up. Certain chapters fared better than others. Loved the one about faith and, surprisingly, the one featuring her encounters with Rachel Ray.
Laurel
This was not a good memoir. I was surprised given that the author is a food journalist (for the New York Times!!). The title of the book is deceptive. For the most part, she had brief encounters with the female cooks referred to in the title of the book (including Rachel Ray and Ruth Reichl). Severson is a recovering alcoholic that spends far too much of the narrative explaining her feelings of inadequacy to the reader, than pontificating on the "cooks that saved her life" <===huh?
Sapphire
Jan 15, 2012 Sapphire added it
Shelves: finished
I read this book on one of my recent 9 plane trips and it was really nice--stress-reducing, interesting to read about Alice Waters in particular, odd that Rachael Ray is one of the cooks that saved the author's lives but I understood how Ms Severson related to Ray's work ethic and relationship to her mother. I would definitely recommend this book to Donna, Lisa, and Kim knowing they like books like this (Kim, the part about Miss Edna and southern cooking was amazing)
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Kim Severson has been a staff writer for the New York Times since 2004. Previously, she spent six years writing about cooking and the culture of food for the San Francisco Chronicle. Before that, she had a seven-year stint as an editor and reporter at the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. She has won the Casey Award Medal for Meritorious Journalism on childhood obesity and four James Beard Awards fo...more
More about Kim Severson...
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“There just comes a point where you realize it is time to show up for your parents, no matter what has passed between you or how you were raised or how busy you are. You just have to show up.” 2 likes
“You can cook when you're hungry or cook to make a living or to feel creative or even just as a distraction, but cooking for the people whom you wake up with and go to sleep with is the best thing ever” 1 likes
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