Kitchen yarns Notes on life, love, and food

Ann Hood, 1956-

Book - 2019

In this warm collection of personal essays and recipes, best-selling author Ann Hood nourishes both our bodies and our souls. From her Italian American childhood through singlehood, raising and feeding a growing family, divorce, and a new marriage to food writer Michael Ruhlman, Ann Hood has long appreciated the power of a good meal. Growing up, she tasted love in her grandmother's tomato sauce and dreamed of her mother's special-occasion Fancy Lady Sandwiches. Later, the kitchen becam...e the heart of Hood's own home. She cooked pork roast to warm her first apartment, used two cups of dried basil for her first attempt at making pesto, taught her children how to make their favorite potatoes, found hope in her daughter's omelet after a divorce, and fell in love again--with both her husband and his foolproof chicken stock. Hood tracks her lifelong journey in the kitchen with twenty-seven heartfelt essays, each accompanied by a recipe (or a few). In "Carbonara Quest," searching for the perfect spaghetti helped her cope with lonely nights as a flight attendant. In the award-winning essay "The Golden Silver Palate," she recounts the history of her fail-safe dinner party recipe for Chicken Marbella--and how it did fail her when she was falling in love. Hood's simple, comforting recipes also include her mother's famous meatballs, hearty Italian Beef Stew, classic Indiana Fried Chicken, the perfect grilled cheese, and a deliciously summery peach pie. With Hood's signature humor and tenderness, Kitchen Yarns spills tales of loss and starting from scratch, family love and feasts with friends, and how the perfect meal is one that tastes like home.

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New York : W.W. Norton & Company [2019]
First edition
Physical Description
xviii, 232 pages ; 22 cm
Main Author
Ann Hood, 1956- (-)
  • The golden silver palate
  • The best fried chicken
  • Pie lady
  • Gogo's meatballs
  • Love, lunch, and meatball grinders
  • Fancy food
  • Confessions of a Marsha Jordan Girl
  • My father's pantry
  • Carbonara quest
  • Sausage on wheels
  • Dinner for one
  • Party like it's 1959
  • Soft food
  • One potato, two
  • Allure
  • How to butcher a pig
  • Risi e bisi
  • Five ways of looking at the tomato
  • How to smoke a salmon
  • The summer of Omelets
  • How to cook fish when you really do not like fish
  • Three potato
  • With thanks to the chicken
  • Let us now praise the English muffin
  • Comfort food II
  • Tomato pie.
Review by New York Times Review

Hood's essays are like hot chocolate, cozy and warm. Her collection of meditations on food and life touches the big themes: grief for a brother and a small child gone suddenly, two divorces and the end of a grand 1L J affair. Still, Hood describes them with the easy intimacy of a friend, confessing her foibles as she stirs a pot of red sauce. The recipes closing each chapter hint that every heartache can be soothed by the deft application of cheese and carbohydrates. Here, unlike in many food memoirs, the recipes carry the story. In some essays, Hood recalls her days as a young woman stumbling into sophistication. She models for the Jordan Marsh department store and flits around the world in a T.W.A. flight attendant uniform designed by Ralph Lauren. The brand names share their retro appeal with the meals she cooks at the time: a curried chicken salad snipped from Glamour, Chicken Salad Veronique, the spaghetti carbonara she falls for on a layover in Rome. These nostalgic foods intuitively convey the fleeting nature of youthful ideals, and how fervently they can be held. Other tales focus on homely simplicity. Hood slips into her Italian-American mother's kitchen, though she never quite manages to get the knack of rolling out meatballs like Mom does. The accompanying recipe comes with a warning: "Gogo" never measures out her ingredients, and besides, "she always wants her food to be better than yours." Later, Hood recalls the quiet joy of making weeknight dinner while her children stand on stools beside her and help. The roast potatoes her son improvises are, appropriately, "best made by a child under the age of 10." The book's steady cheer might cloy were it not punctuated by loneliness. Hood is at her meditative best while wandering around Ikea, trying to assemble a new life after divorce. The store's winding paths remind her of the Minotaur's labyrinth. Instead of a ball of string, however, Hood comes out with a recipe for Swedish meatballs. There is, after all, deliverance in humble things.

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [January 31, 2019] Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this moving collection of essays, Hood (The Knitting Circle), now in her 60s, looks back on her life through the lens of her love of food and cooking. Hood grew up in Providence, R.I., in an Italian-American family that loved food, with her grandmother doing the cooking. Hood's father, who was in the Navy, loved to cook but his rather pedestrian repertoire ranged from runny mashed potatoes to lopsided cake; her mother, who worked for a time in a candy factory, was more adept in the kitchen, making elegant "fancy lady" sandwiches and pies (her lemon meringue pie and meatball recipes are among the many included here). The essays reference major life events, revealing how preparing food helped Hood deal with the death of her older brother and the death of her five-year-old daughter from virulent form of strep ("Now I was cooking to keep from losing my mind from grief," she says while making pork roast with garlic). Cooking also inspired such happy memories as baking with her children or preparing meals for friends. Hood covers her teens as a department store Jordan Marsh girl, her early adulthood as a TWA flight attendant, motherhood, and her recent marriage to food writer Michael Ruhlman. Hood's sharp essays emphasize food as emotional nourishment, bringing family and friends together-both to celebrate the joys and to heal the wounds of life. (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

In her previous works, Hood (The Book That Matters Most) has tackled subjects as diverse as books, knitting, and grief. This latest collection contains 27 essays about food and how we often mark pivotal moments of life via special recipes. From Grandma Gogo's gravy to Hood's perfect carbonara, readers will travel with her through life's vicissitudes. Many of the essays will bring a smile to the face and jostle long-forgotten fond memories, while others gently tackle losing a child or a beloved brother. The recipes that accompany the essays are not fussy, tending toward comfort food. The lack of access to the printed recipes is a significant downfall; there is no table of contents indicating where each recipe could be found, meaning listeners will either have to write the recipes down as they hear them, or do a lot of skipping tracks back and forth through six CDs to find the recipe they wanted to try. Narrator Nina Alvamar brings a wonderful, cozy warmth to the book, perfectly complementing the essays. VERDICT Recommended where food-based memoirs by authors such as Ruth Reichl, Calvin Trillin, and Laurie Colwin are popular, though the print version will be a better fit for those who want to cook from it rather than just enjoying the essays. ["This warm, humorous, touching, and wonderfully readable book will appeal to food lovers and fans of culinary biographies": LJ Winter 2018 starred review of the Norton hc.]-Donna Bachowski, Grand Island, FL © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

In this culinary confessional from the acclaimed author, it's less about the kitchen and more about the yarns.Writing a compelling food memoir is a delicate act; the recipes have to live up to the memories they evoke. In the hands of prolific author Hood (Morningstar: Growing Up with Books, 2017, etc.), the stories themselves are the main dishbut the food still has to be delicious. "I grew up eating. A lot," she writes at the beginning. "As the great food writer M.F.K. Fisher said, First we eat, then we do everything else.' That describes my childhood home." From the kitchen of her Italian grandmother Gogo through her career as a flight attendant, a seemingly perfect American suburban existence, the death of a child, divorce, and fairy tale-like second chance at true romance, Hood recalls each moment through the meals she was preparing, recipes both great and, well, not-so-great. The good ones include her family's traditional meatballs: "The secret to [the] meatballs is how you roll them, a skill my father could never master. Neither could I." The bad ones include her father's scrambled eggs made with sugar. Then there are the heartbreaking ones: the "doctored" ramen Hood makes on the anniversary of her 5-year-old daughter Gracie's death (which she movingly chronicled in her 2008 book, Comfort). "It still hits me when I see seckel pears in the grocery store," she writes. "Little blonde girls in glasses. Hear the Beatles singing Eight Days a Week.' The sharp stab of a memory rises to the surface out of nowhere." But her ramen, featuring a poached egg, butter, and American cheese, helps. While some of the stories feel redundant, with repeated bits of history rephrased, when Hood is focused on her prose, it's like a classic recipeall the flavors sing.A full plate of heart and hearty eats. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.