Hungry: What Eighty Ravenous Guys Taught Me About Life, Love, and the Power of Good Food by Darlene Barnes is a peek into what it might be like to go from being an empty nester to cooking for an entire university fraternity. Not something I would have ever thought of doing, actually, but reading this memoir about cooking three meals a day for fifty to eighty young men five days a week plus a few special occasions only reinforced the idea that this wouldn’t be a good career choice for me – someone who finds cooking for more than five people at once overwhelming.
But Darlene Barnes’ memoir of food and nurturing (which went both ways) not only included a few recipes that I plan on trying the next time I have to cook for a crowd, but also overcame my own irrational prejudice against the Greek system. (Which wasn’t shared by the author. One of her sons had had a good experience in a frat before she started working for the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity at the University of Washington.)
Like most memoirs about people who are still alive to read them, Hungry treads carefully when it comes to revealing details about people other than the author herself, so anyone hoping for a gossipy or Animal House-style glimpse inside an frat is out of luck. The author isn’t present nights or weekends, so she usually only saw the aftermath of any wild goings-on, anyway.
I enjoyed this memoir of cooking and maternal-ish fondness for her “guys” from this 40-something, home cook extraordinaire, who brought her love of local and sustainable eating to a group that was more accustomed to deep-fried mozzarella sticks and frozen pizza.
Hungry: What Eighty Ravenous Guys Taught Me About Life, Love, and the Power of Good Food is more family-oriented than Blood, Bones, & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, another memoir from an outsider chef, and more cooking-oriented than Memoir of the Sunday Brunch by Julia Pandl, but if you liked either of those, you might also like this one.
Here’s an excerpt from the author’s introduction:
When I set out to write a book about this experience, I was clear about what it was not going to be: It would not be a manual on sustainable cooking in a frat house, or a listing of recipes. And it wouldn’t be a trotting out of all the old cliches about fraternities, a rehash (or a defense for that matter) of isolated negative news stories, or an expose of the secret rituals, which, as I often had to reassure the guys’ alumni advisor, no one on the “outside” cares about anyway. “Even we don’t care,” one of the guys quipped when he asked me what the book would be. And while I wanted it to be funny, I didn’t want it to be a joke.
I had expected it to be a story about physical and emotional hunger of young men at a critical turning point in their lives, but what I hadn’t realized until I was nearly finished was how much my own quite different life experiences mirrored their fundamental struggles and how a thread of being the outsider wanting in runs through it all. I was struck that while I worked in a heavily male-dominated profession in an all-male workplace, and suffered a fair amount of condescension from many of those males outside the House, I felt empowered, respected, and valued by the people in this quintessential boys’ club. I thought I was there not just to feed them, but to teach them, and I was surprised to find out how much I didn’t know, how wrong I often was, how quick I was to judge, and how the hunger was not all on their side. And I wanted to write about it because it seemed to me that the longing for connection and purpose, not to mention a heavy dose of laughter and fun in life, was a longing that was not mine alone.
Hungry: What Eighty Ravenous Guys Taught Me About Life, Love, and the Power of Good Food
$24.99 US/ $27.99 CAN
Happy Weekend Cooking!