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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

3.16  ·  Rating details ·  163 Ratings  ·  45 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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Apr 20, 2009 rated it liked it
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.

Feb 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Apr 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 18, 2017 rated it liked it
A nice counterpoint to Madhur Jaffrey's foodie memoir that I just read. Moira Hodgson is English but spent her childhood moving around the world to her father's various diplomatic posts. These included Egypt, Lebanon, Sweden, Berlin and Vietnam. Later she moves to New York and becomes a writer, bouncing around publications and authoring cookbooks as well. The memoir takes us right up to the present day (2009) when she takes her son to Alinea in Chicago for the next wave in fine dining and modern ...more
Cynthia Raleigh
Feb 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Moira Hodgson had an amazingly adventure-filled life growing up, living in different countries, traveling with her family, and meeting numerous types of people. It made me envious of such an interesting childhood. With her family connections, she grew up in the midst of and was introduced to many well known people, whether they be writers, musicians, composers, designers, politicians, artists, or chefs. I enjoyed reading about the local food and cooking methods, as well as daily life in the plac ...more
Sep 26, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 30, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Apr 29, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: autobiographical
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
May 02, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Apr 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 02, 2009 rated it liked it
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
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
Jan 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: humor, memoir
"The daughter of a British Foreign Service officer, Moira Hodgson spent her childhood in many a strange and exotic land."

This memoir started as a delightful read of a young girl's life and her memories of exotic locations and food, and peppered with recipes. By the time Moira reaches adulthood, however, this becomes a boring tale of name dropping.

I recommend the first half of the book.

UPDATE: After reading one of the posted reviews, I think I will go back and read the last third, as she stated t
Aug 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
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.
Aug 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
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.
Oct 18, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
Yawn. It should be good, but just never makes it. Irritating factual errors - Vietnam is not south of the equator, Ribena not made from blackberries. Too much name dropping, too little substance. Shame.
Jun 08, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 06, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Jul 18, 2009 rated it did not like it
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.
Apr 01, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
Lisa Cerqueira
Jan 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Entertaining view of the world from the daughter of a British diplomat, exploring the world from Egypt to Vietnam through food and literary experiences. Thank goodness I didn't go to a British public school!!
Sarah Hine
Feb 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
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).
Mar 20, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
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.
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