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Crazy in the Kitchen: Food, Feuds, and Forgiveness in an Italian American Family

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  137 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
With this stunning memoir of growing up in Italian-American New Jersey, Louise DeSalvo proves that your family's past is baked right into the bread you eat.

In Louise DeSalvo's family, in 1950s New Jersey, the kitchen becomes the site for fierce generational battle. As Louise's step-grandmother stubbornly recreates the domestic habits of her Southern Italian peasant upbring
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 17th 2004 by Bloomsbury USA
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Dec 28, 2008 Ruth rated it really liked it
All my aunts and uncles (6 of them, 9 if you count the steps) spoke with heavy accents, but growing up I never questioned why I never heard them speak either Sicilian or Italian, nor did anyone ever talk about their lives in Sicily or when they first came to Brooklyn. This book is not the story of my family, except in certain similarities of situation, yet in many ways it has helped me to understand the silence I grew up with. The silence I didn’t know was silence until long after I was an adult ...more
Nov 06, 2010 Krista added it
Louise DeSalvo writes about her complex relationships with food and family in “Crazy in the Kitchen.” At first glance, the book’s description: growing up Italian-American in New Jersey, appealed to me since it seemed to fit my own life. But her background is Southern Italy, North Jersey, while I’m the opposite. I’m also about thirty years younger than DeSalvo. Those factors, and a number of others, create a significant difference in our life stories. DeSalvo grew up with a depressed mom, an abus ...more
May 29, 2013 Nancy rated it liked it
Well, I don't think Ms. DeSalvo's life was quite as bad as she thought it was. There were rumblings of a latent drama queen under the different segments in the book. So, her mother was a clean freak who didn't like to cook. And her grandmother was an eccentric Italian grandmother who did like to cook. Her mother had issues having her strong-willed, critical STEP-mother living with her. I suspect I would have also - Grandma didn't seem to have much respect for boundaries in her step-daughter's ho ...more
May 16, 2014 Marlene rated it liked it
This was an interesting book about an Italian immigrant family in America, written by Louise DeSalvo about her grandparents and her parents and the differences of the old world and new world. She writes a lot about the importance of food in her family. Many of the things Louise did not understand until she grew up and visited the homelands of her parents and grandparents. For example, she thought Italians were Italians and therefore she and her husband tried to match up her grandmother and his g ...more
Oct 14, 2008 Kristen rated it it was ok
Every time we take our fall trip to the Hudson Valley, we stop by the Culinary Institute of America. This trip we visited the gift shop and I felt inspired to check out this book from the sale rack. It's about a woman who grew up in the 50s and 60s in suburban NJ with a mother who loved anything canned or processed and a grandmother from Italy who made "peasant food" and disdained the evils of Wonder bread and all the other food products of the time.


I wanted to love this book, but I found it d
Jul 24, 2014 Marilyn rated it really liked it
The only book by Louise DeSalvo I'd read (and still own) is one on writing as a healing process. It's wonderful, and I've recommended it to, and used it in, writing workshops I've facilitated over the years. So I saw this book and wanted to check out DeSalvo's own memoir writing. It became obvious, reading this book, how writing aided in her own personal healing processes. Lotsa clashes at home between an Italian immigrant grandmother who cooks the Old Country recipes and a mother who has fallen ...more
Apr 11, 2008 Kathy rated it did not like it
I quit reading this one about forty pages into it. The author grew up in an Italian-American family in the US in the fifties with her Italian grandmother living with them. I sort of expected a heartwarming story that would definitely have it's bittersweet moments but this one is pretty dark. Mom hides all the kitchen knives every night because she fears that any or all of the family members might wake up at night and stab everyone to death. Little sister eventually commits suicide. (I decided no ...more
Cathy Aquila
Jun 23, 2011 Cathy Aquila rated it liked it
3 1/2 stars. Not exactly what I was expecting. This memoir has more pain than pasta. DeSalvo grew up in a home without much love and there wasn't any affection displayed and the kitchen was often their battleground. Although there is no resemblance to my Italian American upbringing, I enjoyed some of the descriptions and dialogue that reminded me of my own Sicilian grandparents.
Penny Cipolone
Aug 04, 2015 Penny Cipolone rated it really liked it
Not an easy read because it is so emotionally draining. This is a must for anyone who has had mother problems influence her life. The author shows how her search for her family's past helped to enlighten the way she viewed her mother and father. Sometimes the reader has to laugh, but many more times the result is tears - tears for the past, the present, the future, and what might have been.
Aug 18, 2009 Gigi rated it liked it
While I found this to be somewhat repetitive with DeSalvo's first book _Vertigo: A Memoir_ and other, shorter pieces of hers that I've read in journals and anthologies, midway through I began to feel really caught up in this family history. Especially gratifying were DeSalvo's descriptions of her food obsessions and quirks. I'm going to try to get my mother to read it now.
Dec 24, 2008 Julene rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
I love this book. She tells the story of her immigrant family using food as the constant thread. It is a rich book that made me cry. I studied with Louise in NYC years ago (1980s) and it brought her alive as ever to read her memoir, she was right there with me as I read.
Feb 21, 2012 Melissa rated it liked it
I loved that it wasn't the traditional girl-growing-up-attached-to-mamma's-apron-strings story. It is filled with a lot of realistic family strife and pain. This sometimes grew tiresome and seemed over the top, but a decent read, nonetheless.
May 28, 2007 Jessica rated it liked it
Shelves: food, memoir, non-fiction
DeSalvo's gritty memoir is full of lots of unhappy memories of growing up as a 2nd generation American in an Italian American home in New Jersey. This is not a happy go-lucky foodie memoir. DeSalvo digs up a lot of pain in her family history.
May 20, 2014 Vivian rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book but I got bored frequently as the author seemed to revisit feelings/experiences already said. It ended up being just another tired report of a girl growing up in a dysfunctional family.
Jul 13, 2010 Denise rated it liked it
Not exactly what I was expecting. I did not find it happy or uplifting as far as family dynamics.
Sally Anne
May 12, 2013 Sally Anne rated it liked it
Very highly recommended. A bit uneven in terms of focus, but an excellent excellent writer. Heartfelt and intense.
Jamie rated it liked it
Oct 14, 2013
Sasa rated it really liked it
Jul 29, 2011
Rob Cole
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Jun 26, 2008
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Nov 02, 2015
Mindy Lewis
Mindy Lewis rated it it was amazing
Apr 22, 2017
Libby J West
Libby J West rated it it was amazing
Apr 21, 2017
Lisa Stevens
Lisa Stevens rated it really liked it
Jul 01, 2014
Elizabeth Whiting
Elizabeth Whiting rated it really liked it
May 23, 2009
Liz rated it it was amazing
Sep 08, 2014
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Feb 08, 2011
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Feb 07, 2011
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Sep 28, 2012
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Louise A. DeSalvo (born 1942) is an American writer, editor, professor, and lecturer who currently lives in New Jersey. Much of her work focuses on Italian-American culture, though she is also a renowned Virginia Woolf scholar.

DeSalvo and her husband raised their children in Teaneck, New Jersey before moving to Montclair to be closer to their grandchildren.

She also teaches memoir writing as a part
More about Louise DeSalvo...

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