review & giveaway: spoon fed by kim severson

One afternoon early last May, not long after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I received a phone call from Kim Severson. In the day or two prior, I had posted something on Twitter about Gulf Coast seafood, and she happened to see it. She was doing research for a story on the New York Times – this story – and she was interested in talking to home cooks in the southern states potentially affected by the spill. She contacted me and we set up a time to talk.

I can’t even describe the excitement I felt after our Twitter exchange. I was ecstatic. And nervous beyond belief.

That day in May, I had just picked up my daughter from her after-school program. Madeline and I had just buckled up, I started up my minivan (yes, it’s as glamorous as you might imagine), and my cell phone rang. I answered it, and with butterflies in my stomach, said hello to Kim Severson – a writer whose work I had admired for some time, and whose recent memoir I had just read.

And then Maddie decided to have a tantrum over a broken cookie.

I was mortified. I apologized profusely to Kim, knowing her time was valuable, and asked her to hold on for a second. It would have been great if I’d thought to put my phone on mute, because I have no idea what I yelled at Maddie in those next moments. I believe I even bribed my daughter with candy to get her to stop the screaming. What I do know is that when Maddie finally settled down, and when I put the phone back up to my ear, Kim was completely gracious and understanding. I think she actually got a kick out of it. She told me that, hearing Maddie screaming, she was reminded of her daughter.

Making connections with people like Kim Severson has been one of the real highlights of this food blogging experience. Had I not been cooking and writing about food, our conversation never would have happened.

Kim Severson’s memoir, Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life, came out last April, and I read it cover to cover within a matter of days. Not only is Kim an excellent journalist, but she’s a wonderful storyteller. The story she writes is of her relationship with eight women and their kitchens. She writes honestly about her relationship with alcohol, her path of becoming a food writer, and of learning lessons from a series of women cooks – including Leah Chase, Rachel Ray, Ruth Reichl, and Marcella Hazan. And though the book deals with serious issues and draws you in emotionally, she writes with her signature sense of humor, making it a pleasure to read.

Spoon Fed comes out in paperback on Tuesday, March 1st. However you read it – paperback, hardcover, or on a Kindle – I recommend reading it. It’s completely worth your time and money, and when you’re done with the book, you’ll feel like you’ve made a friend. I sure did. And when I met Kim in person in Birmingham at Food Blog South, the hug we gave each other reinforced that feeling.

Kim’s hardcover edition maintains a spot on my bookshelf, next to Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires and Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte. Thanks to Riverhead Books, I was given an advance copy of the new paperback Spoon Fed to review, and since I’ve already read it, I’d love to share this copy with one of you.

In the comments, I’d love to hear about a cook who taught you a life lesson or who made an impression on you in some way. On Monday evening, March 7th, I’ll use random.org to select a winner, and I’ll ship – at my expense – my review copy of Spoon Fed to that person.

Giveaway rules: A review copy of Spoon Fed was provided to me by Riverhead Books. Comments will be open until Monday 3/7/2011 at 12 noon EST. Only one comment per person, please – duplicates will be deleted – and winner will be chosen at random using random.org on Monday 3/7/2011. Since I’m shipping the book at my expense, open to residents of the US and Canada only.

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24 Responses to “review & giveaway: spoon fed by kim severson”

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    Liz the Chef — February 27, 2011 @ 8:08 pm

    Lucky you! I have read Kim’s book twice and also devoured it! LOL re your daughter’s tantrum – and I feel certain Kim totally understood. What a thrill for you – so pleased – isn’t blogging fun?!

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    Brian @ A Thought For Food — February 27, 2011 @ 8:22 pm

    What a fantastic story and a great giveaway! An easy answer would be my mother… and as corny as it sounds, it’s the truth. She taught me everything I know and continues to be a huge inspiration. What is truly incredibly about my mom is the fact that, due to a number of health issues, she’s unable to most of the food she makes. But almost every one of the dishes she’s made have been so flavorful… it really is a miraculous feat.

    Of course, there are professional chefs that inspire me… but I’m sticking with my mother.

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    Donna — February 27, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

    I love memoirs and I love cooking so any book that combines real life stories and cooking is a treat for me. (I have a blog where I write about life, faith, and food and I’m working on a memoir/cookbook.) One collection of stories and recipes that left an impression on me is Being Dead Is No Excuse (The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting a Funeral) by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hayes. It’s hilarious and it has a great collection of funeral food recipes–coconut cakes and chicken salad and several pimento cheese recipes. It was such a fun read!

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    Tenley — February 27, 2011 @ 8:50 pm

    I have to say my aunt introduced me to a love of gourmet food publications, sites and most of all, recipes that dared to test my ability and really provided a challenge and ultimate sense of accomplishment and pride. She taught me the basics of cooking and introduced me to the next level as well. Now, my family boasts many wonderful cooks and much of our time together is spent cooking and talking about food.

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    Michelle Murphy — February 27, 2011 @ 9:14 pm

    Kim’s book sounds like a wonderful, delicious read … I’d love the chance to devour it, ha ha! When I think about cooks who’ve made an impression on me, one of the first who springs to mind is my dear friend Eileen. We met 20 years ago, when our first children were just a year old and we were navigating the new world of motherhood/home-keeping. Though neither of us had much extra money in those days, Eileen taught me never to skimp on quality ingredients, to be ambitious in my recipes/cooking, and to make even simple lunches into real “occasions” by setting pretty tables and using the good dishes — lessons I took to heart and still practice today!

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    My grandmother is my inspiration, she’s the one who brought cooking to life for me, her joy and love permeated everything she touched in the kitchen. It is from her that I learned to celebrate the pleasures of food.

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    Lana — February 28, 2011 @ 4:04 am

    That is a wonderful story. I think that Kim Severson probably appreciated and fully understood the moment when your daughter decided to show her personality:) Mothers have a common bond after all. I am so happy you had such an experience, especially because you did not seek it, it found you:)
    My favorite cookbooks are the ones which tell the stories and let me get a glimpse of the author’s life. I did not read Kim’s book, but I think that it would be a great reading material.
    I learned an awful lot from my mother who is a great cook, and I have to put her in the first place. My Aunt, her sister, though, taught me how to relax in the kitchen and embrace the process, instead of fretting about it.

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    Amelia — February 28, 2011 @ 10:45 am

    I would have to say Mom and the sudden advent of cooking blogs. I get so much inspiration from other peoples blogs.

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    Lynda — February 28, 2011 @ 11:03 am

    I can thoroughly picture the minivan and tantrum – hilarious (after the fact) for sure…
    I’ve had much inspiration, but what comes to mind right now are our dear friends Georg and Carola in Switzerland. They live simply within their means, yet each night is a feast featuring fresh, local food procured from their garden and the local markets. Dinners last several hours in the European way, beginning with an apero, followed by charcuterie, then perhaps a homemade pasta, then a meat or fish simply prepared, followed by a simple salad. Then follows the cheese, a worthy dessert in and of itself, followed by fresh fruit or perhaps a homemade sorbet. I strive to keep this tradition alive in our own family life now that we are in the US (which at times requires more mindfulness) – emphasizing the pleasure of preparing and eating delicious, fresh food while treasuring our time and company together.

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    Sherri — February 28, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

    I really enjoyed your piece on being interviewed by Kim.

    I wanted to cook from the first time I saw Julia Child on PBS as a small child. I was just fascinated by all the ‘exotic’ dishes she prepared. I’d watch my mother in the kitchen and question her endlessly about ingredients and techniques.

    Thankfully, Mum has always had a garden (and a very green thumb) and fruit trees in abundance. As kids, my sisters and I would be enlisted to help plant, weed and harvest the bounty. This also sparked a lifelong quest for the finest, freshest ingredients available.

    I was about 13 or so when Mom finally redecorated the kitchen, installed all new appliances and a set of cookbooks from around the world. Upon revealing this to me, she walked out and simply said, “I quit.” She would prepare holiday meals and an odd pot of something delicious but as no one would show up, she was done with making dinner. She provided us with everything we needed and I would spend hours experimenting and investigating cuisines and cultures previously alien to me.

    Thanks to that first set of international books, I now collect cookbooks and am constantly expanding my knowledge and technique in the kitchen.

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    Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — February 28, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

    You took me back a few years…to the land of minivans and tantrums but then just as quickly to those memories of time in the kitchen with my Grandma.

    My mom was a good cook; actually a very good cook but with 6 kids we always had a lot of the same thing; foods that were easy to prepare and serve to a large family so spaghetti, stew and meatloaf topped that list. Helping my mom was work; I don’t recall it being a fun time for either of us…it was quite simply getting dinner on the table.

    But time with my Grandma Bathe was special. Special because I was there for a day without that herd of siblings, special because she could share techniques and recipes with me before I was really old enough to care as I do now. And special because everything she did, for everyone, was out of love. Even when I showed up unannounced on a Sunday afternoon, the first words out of her mouth were, ‘Barbie, can I get you something to eat?’ and she always seemed to have a treasure trove of goodies just waiting in the fridge.

    I know I would love this book…it’s those stories that are associated with some of my favorite dishes that make them most important to me.

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    David Dadekian — February 28, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

    I could list a few great RI chefs I’ve worked with, but I’m going with my early, early influence: my best friend’s Italian mother. She made a huge impression on me, cooking rabbit and squid and all sorts of delicious, fantastic Italian food at home. Great fun.

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    Paula - bell'alimento — February 28, 2011 @ 8:08 pm

    One of the many high notes of food blog south was meeting Kim Severson. She is a GEM and I can’t wait to read her book. My Mom and Grandma were the ones who lit the cooking fire in me and there have been so many others along the way but they were the fire starters ; )

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    Jennifer (Savor) — February 28, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

    This sounds like a glorious read! I am happy you were able to meet her.

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    Lucy — March 1, 2011 @ 10:44 am

    Great story on your interview. Kids can truly interrupt our lives, and in that moment we think it’s hugely important, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. . The only people who don’t understand are the parenting experts — those who don’t have kids!

    My biggest influence in cooking has been my grandmother. She cooked three meals a day for many, many years, and made it seem effortless. And everything was delicious. Killing us with saturated fat, but delicious all the same.

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    Brandy Truex — March 1, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

    Thanks for the book recommendation. My mom inspired my love of cooking by making me and my sister help make dinner every night. I made a lot of Rice A Roni, that was usually my job. When I graduated college and started dating, I found I only had a couple of dishes to make for the “special someone”: baked chicken (with cornflake crumbs) and tuna casserole. I wanted to do better. So my lack of knowledge about cooking led me to start a monthly “Supper Club” with 10 girlfriends back in 1999. The main rule is you have to try a recipe you have never tired before, give out any tips if necessary and provide the recipes. The group has morphed over time and has held strong with the same five couples (four girls from the original 10) for about 7 years. I have learned so much!! I am not initmidated by new recipes and I have a much better sense in the kitchen. I even started a small kitchen garden two years ago so I can have fresh herbs!

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    Gail — March 1, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

    I’d love a chance to win this book!!! My Aunt Evelyn was one of the greatest home bakers EVER!
    I used to love to watch her swirl the chocolate fudge icing on her incredible mocha cake…she did it so effortlessly. I could be in her kitchen for hours while she’d make her famous jelly roll for her favorite brother-in-law, who happened to be my father. Everything Evelyn touched was beautiful
    and delicious.
    But, this memory outweighs them all….when my mother was in the hospital giving birth to my brother, I stayed with my Aunt Evelyn & Uncle Leo. Evelyn was making spaghetti sauce. She pulled up a chair, tied a big apron around me and gave me a wooden spoon so I could stir. I don’t think there was a better food memory for me…I really thought I was cooking! And, later on, Evelyn gave the credit for the sauce to me.
    It doesn’t sound like much, I know, but in our house, I was barely allowed in the kitchen for fear I’d get hurt or make a mess. This was NIRVANA!

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    Janis — March 1, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

    Love your story.
    When I was a kid my brother who is 8 years older than me intrigued me with his cooking. Now when we visit each other we love cooking together.

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    fooddreamer — March 1, 2011 @ 8:48 pm

    It looks like a great book and I am so glad you made a personal connection with her. I’d have to say that my whole family of in-laws, particularly my father in law, inspire me. They all love to cook and life is lived around the meals and food they prepare. I am pretty certain I would not have been allowed to marry my husband if I didn’t like cooking!

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    Ethan — March 2, 2011 @ 10:09 am

    Wonderful giveaway and great story MJ and I’m sure you provided Kim with a good chuckle while you were bartering in the van over a cookie.
    Although both my parents are great in the kitchen, I will always remember the passion and happiness my Bubbie had cooking for her grandchildren.

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    [email protected] — March 2, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

    the cooks who have taught me life lessons are actually my petits chefs. I think I am teaching them so much yet I learn so much from them in return 🙂

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    I would have to say my mother. Growing up I was always aware of the fact that she was a great cook but it wasn’t until I moved out on my own that I truly began to appreciate her skill. Now, a month away from my own wedding I am learning to cook and blogging about it.

    What a fantastic book – I would LOVE to read it.

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    Fuji Mama — March 3, 2011 @ 10:07 pm

    The book sounds fabulous! My dad’s mom was the person who really taught my own mom how to cook. My mom’s mom was a widowed singled mother who taught elementary school, and so threw together quick meals. My mom, as a result, learned the basics, but never really learned the love of food until she met my dad and then his mom. My grandmother is a phenomenal cook, and my mom quickly became one as well. If it wasn’t for my grandmother, I wouldn’t have the love for food and cooking that I do now!

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    Bakeanything — March 3, 2011 @ 10:19 pm

    My nanny taught me the things I needed to know. She was from a foreign land and spoke poor English but we connected through food. She taught me how to appreciate homegrown garden vegetables and simple meals. Because of her I’m a full time pastry cook (:

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