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Eating: A memoir

2.97  ·  Rating details ·  180 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Jason Epstein, the legendary editor and publisher of Norman Mailer, Vladimir Nabokov, Gore Vidal, and E. L. Doctorow, among many other distinguished writers, and the editor of such great chefs and bakers as Alice Waters, Wolfgang Puck, and Maida Heatter, takes us on a culinary tour through his eventful life, beginning with his childhood summers in Maine, where his decision ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published October 27th 2009 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2009)
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Average rating 2.97  · 
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 ·  180 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Really 2 1/2-3 stars.

A review from "Newsweek" on the cover says, "An unpretentious chronicle of an extraordinary life well lived." Unpretentious? Um, I don't think so. Epstein, an editor with Random House, has worked with some of the finest writers including Norman Mailer and Nabokov and edited Alice Waters's cookbooks, a definite name dropper. Unpretentious he is not. We hear he went to Columbia at least twice, he has a penthouse in Manhattan and a house in Sag Harbor, he lived next door to Cra
Kristen Northrup
Nov 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, nonfiction, food
This is a very small book, not only a thin one. But although I was thus warned that it would be brief, it was still disappointingly so. Epstein stays away from outright gossip, for which I am grateful, but I really could have used more anecdotes. Easily a third of the text is (tasty) recipes, most involving lobster. There's also a pretty creepy story about a lobster dinner. I will definitely need to try adding duck fat to a burger. There's a chapter on M.F.K. Fisher (recounting her own memoirs; ...more
Feb 01, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, food, memoir
This book felt very much like a vanity memoir. The author name drops and gives the reader a number of unnecessary recipes, but doesn't have much to say about publishing, or food, that hasn't been said better before. No narrative, no poetry, no panache. ...more
Oct 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food
This is a beautiful, very personal memoir built within a framework of recipes and meals fondly remembered.
Mar 05, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Heather by: Megan
I started this book feeling a little grumpy: when I finish reading a novel and pick up a work of nonfiction, it requires a little adjustment—and maybe this is especially true when switching from a novel to episodic nonfiction like this book. Eating started not as a book but as a recipe column in the Style section of The New York Times, and it feels it: it's not exactly a chronological memoir, as Epstein goes from talking about Paris circa 1954 in one chapter to lobsters in the next to cooking Ch ...more
Aug 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
OK, full confession: I'm a a sucker for gastro-memoirs. I love reading about food, food prep, meal consumption and even menu planning. If the author has led a really intriguing life, and/or eaten amazingly diverse and even oddball foods in interesting locations, even better. And if there are a few accessible recipes thrown in, including some things I might even be able to duplicate, or at the very least learn from, my reading experience is complete.

Jason Epstein, who for many years was the edito
Jul 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
I read this a couple of years ago in one or two sittings. It is a wonderful summer read: literate and memorable. Epstein, once a titan of the publishing world, has such a wide range of interests, friends, capabilities, that reading this book is like sitting in his kitchen, chin in hand, the sun slanting in, while he talks and putters, making a tarte, perhaps, or a blueberry pie. That he makes it just a little differently from your mother's is just curious, not catastrophic. I don't know quite wh ...more
I got this book from the library--I tend to scroll through the listings of e-books available at the library and just randomly choose books that I think might be interesting--what the heck, they are free and I can always delete them with a click of the button--I don't even need to return to the library!

Anyway, I selected this book, started to read, and then realized that I had read the book once before. As I read through it for the second time, I enjoyed all the same things I enjoyed the first ti
Joanne Clarke Gunter
I liked this book and have read many foodie/chef books, but you would think that such a famous editor and publisher would have written a longer and better organized book. At a mere 165 pages, the book is slight, but the annoying thing is that there is hardly any demarcation between the author's written words and his recipes. They just sort of run together with the recipes in darker type. Plus, the recipes aren't that exact and I'm not sure the average cook could reproduce them. Still, I always e ...more
Jan 02, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I wanted to hear more about eating and recipes not publishing and old restaurants and old recipes that I've seen before. I'm all for memoirs with recipes but this is more for someone who actually likes Epstein or maybe old NYC restaurants and not just generally food. Other reviewers keep saying that this isn't just a cookbook and I think I'd have liked it more if it was just a cookbook. This feels like the kind of book that you'd write to leave to your children and family who know you and not th ...more
Sarah Embil
Dec 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous. An amalgam of biography, cookbook, history, and personal little gems all tied up together. The details of his experiences enjoying food with others whom we all know from different areas of history are simply delicious. After finishing this book, I wanted nothing more than to make my own lobster roll and sit in a sunny window. I read this on a road trip and found myself reading it aloud to my husband, the driver, as Mr. Epstein's experiences traversed into the lives of other mid-20th ce ...more
Keri Daskam
Dec 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: year-7
This book was a great interim nonfiction between the classics. It was short, funny, and all about great food with great people. Jason Epstein has lived the kind of life and known the kind of people that made reading this book a little reminiscent of "A Moveable Feast" which is maybe my all time good food/good people book.

The recipes are super interesting and written in a conversational style. They lean heavily to seafood specific to the Northeast, but I will definitely remind myself of them if
Dec 11, 2009 rated it it was ok
This could have been so much more. Epstein enjoyed an interesting life as the editorial director of Random House and he can be quite entertaining. He really shines when he is describing old New York, Maine, and the Cape, or sharing anecdotes about his interaction with the likes of Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer. But even if you are able to overlook the hackneyed food "facts" and ambiguous recipes, the redundancies may drive you mad.
This editor is in desperate need of an editor.

May 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
Epstein was an important figure in the publishing industry. I’m pretty confident that assisted in his book getting published.

He offers a few brief thoughts on some well-known people who are his friends or acquaintances and pads out the book with unstructured recipes and very few details about his personal life.

There wasn’t enough substance to be book worthy for me. It was a super quick read but overall disappointing.
Jul 02, 2013 rated it liked it
It's refreshing to see editors write books. The concise prose, the economy of words, the efficiently conveyed feelings are such a refreshing change from the adjective heavy text that can drag food memoirs to a grueling pace, eventually causing them to stall. While not all the recipes are ones I would cook, the story behind each, the location specific information woven with history and key personalities in the food scene make for an easy and engaging read. ...more
Jamie Greenheck
Dec 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Jason Epstein lived a life I would love to live. It was different era. The book left me wanting to know more, though. There are some nuggets, including my new favorite quote (by J.T. Peete): "Pray for peace and grace and spiritual food, for wisdom and guidance, for all these are good, but don't forget the potatoes." ...more
Adeline Lutts
Mar 31, 2010 rated it liked it
Reading his recipes is like listing to him talk at a dinner table. A quick read, with some good menus and a publisher's who's who in the food writing world. On a few occasions, mainly the east coast seafood bits, his food experiences really hit home for me. Creating a yearning for steamer clams that has not been satiated yet. ...more
Aug 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
for food and publishing/literary nerds. i doubt i'll make many of the recipes (heavy on the lobster, the oysters and the frying) but it was a great read. glimpse at the bygone days of the book business (martini lunches not mentioned but implied; jackie o and gore vidal make appearances). i really wanted to go to some of these parties. ...more
Aug 10, 2010 rated it did not like it
So pretentious! The author clearly states that he's writer and not a chef, but he sure does command you to cook things like a chef. I understand that this is a memoir, but Epstein clearly lived a privileged life that he is quick to brag about. His writing style was to abrasive for me to even finish the entire book! ...more
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Written as only the editor of Random House could write his memoir. The book is spiced with wondrous tid-bits of cooking & eating . His enthusiasm for all things food shines through this sometimes tender, all times candid little charmer. Who knew about "strattu"? My copy is copiously flagged with post-its, mostly marking great recipes to try. ...more
Alise Napp
Sep 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
Read my full thoughts over at Read.Write.Repeat.

Sadly, I have to chalk this one up to a genre failure. I will be back for plenty more food-based memoirs, but not from Epstein. The book doesn't have much actual content and I struggled to connect with Epstein.
Oct 30, 2009 rated it did not like it
It had such a great review in Newsweek that I got a copy right away. Sadly...I really had to force myself to finish it. I thought he had a few little stories that were nice....but his writing style was very boring. I was not even tempted by his recipes.
Dec 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
The review in the Washington Post made me want to read this book, but it's for a different reader than my humble self! This man knows important people and cooks important food (mostly seafood) using recipes I'd never dare try. O well! ...more
Though I did enjoy this book, I felt it was only an appetizer to what could have been a glorious meal. "Please sir, can I get some more?"

I will definitely try some of the recipes, especially the lobster rolls. They sound delicious.
Anuradha Murphy
Jul 11, 2010 rated it liked it
This book is filled with good recipes, each one accompanied with background details of childhood memories, friends/family who shared the meal, and where many of the ingredients came from. A treat to read about someone who enjoys the process of acquiring, cooking, and eating good food!
Oct 02, 2010 marked it as cantfinish
I wanted to like this, I really did, but it was such a very difficult read. Not really something you can sit down and read - I think it functions more as a recipe book (without measurements?). This is all very strange considering he's a well-known editor. ...more
Jun 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
Meh. Probably wouldn't read it again or recommend it to anyone. The writing was okay, but felt like I was being talked down to a bit because I had experienced all of these fancy food places, cuisines, or people. ...more
Nov 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: gastronomy
Epstein is from another era. He and Gore Vidal toured Europe with a driver. The anecdotes about Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck were interesting, but the recipes were rather unrealistic to me.
Dec 22, 2009 rated it did not like it
Not well-written! This was basically boring, and even though I like informal recipes, I couldn't get through the recipes either. Quite disappointing. ...more
Jan 06, 2010 marked it as to-read
A Christmas gift given to the Giddings family for Larissa and I. I will be the first to read and then pass along to Larissa....looks like a good read!
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