cover image Fair Shares for All: A Memoir of Family and Food

Fair Shares for All: A Memoir of Family and Food

John Haney, . . Random, $25.95 (279pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-6233-1

This colorful and heartfelt autobiography of Haney’s family life and English heritage focuses on food, both as sustenance and as a vehicle to examine issues of class and identity. The culinary descriptions make for a mouthwatering and occasionally cringe-worthy scene-stealer at the author’s boyhood home in Chipping Ongan, in the Essex, England, countryside, where “much was eaten... and surprisingly little said.” Now copy chief at Gourmet, Haney penned the book following the 2003 publication of a personal essay for the magazine on the same topic. He has successfully mined three generations of his family, threading together vignettes from his parents’ childhood experiences with his own, highlighting commonalities of financial struggles and alcoholism. Into these rather macabre topics, Haney’s writing breathes new life with poetic details (he paints an autumnal drizzle as “the color of unwashed sheep”). Reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s Boy, with a gastronomic bent, this memoir is insightful and evocative, expertly conveying the author’s emotional connection to food. Having inherited a legacy of “sausages and sadness,” Haney sees what he eats as representative of a choice between the working and upper classes, and family loyalties. One wishes for more action and fewer exhaustive culinary images, but to Haney, food is sometimes both the starring character and the action. Photos. (Jan.)