Consuming Passions: A Food-Obsessed Life

Michael Lee West, Author HarperCollins Publishers $25 (262p) ISBN 978-0-06-018371-4
Beginning with a childhood during which she ate dirt (not out of poverty, but because she felt compelled to taste the mud pies she had produced), West draws a loving and beguiling portrait of her Southern relatives and their obsession with food. This is not a cookbook in the strictest sense, but the humorous narrative is laced with recipes. As West (known for her novels Crazy Ladies and American Pie) points out early on, families tend to lose their favorite dishes as elderly relatives pass on; here she attempts to record some of her family's favorites. The recipes are as chatty as the prose: Mimi's Buttermilk Biscuits can touch each other, they ""like togetherness,"" and Miss Johnnie's Macaroni and Cheese ""serves eight hungry souls or six starving ones."" Chapters are cleverly self-contained, but some relatives have recurring roles. As a rule, the recipes are not gourmet fare--Tempe's Blue-Ribbon Coconut Cake uses Duncan Hines cake mix--nor are West's relatives gourmets. One of the funniest essays here culminates in her aunt Dell serving a pot roast with bugs in it, at which point West and her mother discover a new interest in vegetarianism. West's mother and aunts play starring roles; whether providing a recipe for a Love Stimulant, a Remedy for a Lonely Heart or Better Than Sex Cake (although Aunt Dell claims it does not live up to its name), they come across as original characters. West manages to portray Southern charm without falling back on stereotypes, and meanwhile stylishly explaining the mystical, eternal link between family and food. When West and relatives visit a barbecue restaurant formerly owned by her uncle, her aunt announces, ""We're kin to this sauce,"" and it doesn't sound like a metaphor. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/31/1999
Release date: 06/01/1999
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.