My Kitchen Wars

Betty Fussell, Author North Point Press $23 (240p) ISBN 978-0-86547-577-9
As befits a noted food historian and writer (I Hear America Cooking), Fussell recounts how the domestic wars of her childhood, marriage and family life played out in a succession of kitchens--in brilliant vignettes marked by appealing humor, biting irony and unflinching honesty. In the house where Fussell was born, the scene of her father's delight in squeezing oranges became, before Fussell was two, that of the death of her high-strung mother, with an open tin of rat poison mutely testifying to the cause. Until Fussell escaped to college, she endured the harsh restrictions of a hostile stepmother whose favorite appliance was the pressure cooker. At school, Fussell concentrated on the primary mission of every girl in the late 1940s: landing a man. When she married Paul, a literature student, the inevitable wedding present of that era--a Waring blender--symbolized the beginning of a sophisticated lifestyle. Paul focused on his career in academe, while Betty enthusiastically embraced her role as wife and mother, and turned entertaining into a competitive sport. In the 1960s, the Fussells' circle turned to erotic excess: Betty recalls drunken wife-swapping and her own illicit affair, and she offers gossipy tidbits about Kingsley Amis and Philip Roth. Paul's book, The Great War and Modern Memory, brought him acclaim but, according to Betty, he continually demeaned her writing efforts. Their marriage failed after his homosexual affair with a student. Fussell was finally able to make her own way using what the French call a ""batterie de cuisine"" (kitchen artillery), displaying her considerable talents in such publications as the New York Times and nine of her own books. Agent, Gloria Loomis, Watkins Loomis Agency. First serial to the New Yorker; 8-city author tour. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/04/1999
Release date: 10/01/1999
Paperback - 238 pages - 978-0-8032-2097-3
Paperback - 238 pages - 978-0-86547-603-5
Hardcover - 347 pages - 978-0-7862-2697-9
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