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Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life

3.44  ·  Rating Details ·  845 Ratings  ·  124 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
Hardcover, 242 pages
Published April 15th 2010 by Riverhead Hardcover
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Jun 21, 2010 Katherine rated it liked it
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
May 27, 2010 Michele rated it it was ok
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.
Jun 12, 2010 Lex rated it it was ok
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.
Jul 14, 2010 Linds rated it liked it
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.
Sep 03, 2010 Erin rated it it was ok
it was somewhat entertaining, but overall, I thought it was sort of 'choppy' reading zig-zaged in time and in thought.
Christine Zibas
Feb 08, 2016 Christine Zibas rated it liked it
A food writer for the “New York Times,” Kim Severson takes a different look at the subject of food in this memoir. Approaching it from the life lessons hidden in her journey through a career immersed in food, it is perhaps just as much biographical as autobiographical. That is, she writes with candor about many of the important women in food who have influenced her life. These are real flesh and blood portraits, with flaws fully exposed.

No one’s life comes under finer scrutiny in “Spoon Fed” tha
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
Dec 30, 2010 Bettyann rated it really liked it
Shelves: cooking, recipes, memoir
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
Oct 17, 2011 Heather rated it it was amazing
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.

Sep 01, 2010 cat rated it liked it
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
Mar 01, 2010 Jacqie rated it really liked it
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)
Sep 30, 2010 Emily rated it liked it
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
Monica Williams
May 10, 2014 Monica Williams rated it really liked it
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
Rogue Reader
Jul 23, 2011 Rogue Reader rated it liked it
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
Feb 20, 2014 Rama rated it really liked it
Shelves: cooking
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
Aug 11, 2011 Maija rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011, memoir
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
Aug 15, 2011 James rated it liked it
Shelves: prayer
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
Jan 28, 2011 Margaret rated it liked it
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
Jun 02, 2010 Jennifer rated it really liked it
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
Mar 20, 2011 Karen rated it really liked it
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
Kim Severson's "kitchen memoir" is more about what eight women taught her about life than it is what they taught her about food. Some of the lessons are clear; Edna Lewis' connection to a world where food was simply itself helped teach Severson about the need for authenticity and how families are made. Some lessons are not so easily gleaned; the antagonistic interview with Marcella Hazan leaves the reporter without the approbation she so wanted from the culinary great. A good, thoughtful read, t ...more
Dec 08, 2012 Meg rated it liked it
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
Jan 25, 2012 Jennifer rated it liked it
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
Feb 16, 2011 Lisa rated it really liked it
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
Jul 28, 2010 Danika rated it liked it
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
Carla Catalano
Apr 12, 2016 Carla Catalano rated it really liked it
Shelves: food-and-drink
Spoon Fed by Kim Severson, a New York Times journalist was refreshing, delicious and inspirational. Kim's heartfelt memoir reveals not only the cooking secrets of some of the biggest names in the Culinary world, but a survival guide and wisdom for life. It was so enjoyable - I took notes! I want to compare the finest chocolates side by side, as well as find a copy of Edna Lewis's, Essay and read "What it Means to be Southern, I will remember when it is time to "show up" for my parents and I unde ...more
Sep 09, 2010 Emily rated it really liked it
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
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
May 28, 2011 Sarah rated it liked it
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.
Jun 18, 2010 ellen rated it liked it
I found this book fairly enjoyable, it's always interesting to me to know where people come from. Memoir is one of my favorite genres, because it reminds me that we all struggle, no matter what successes we achieve in life.

That being said, her style did not appeal to me. I didn't connect with the book in the way I expected I would. It was kind of like 'oh that's interesting' but nothing more profound.

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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 find God, make as much money as God or be as good-looking as God, and you'll still need to figure out a way to pack the emotional baggage you were handed when you were a kid.” 2 likes
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