A memoir by novelist Kate Christensen, Blue Plate Special starts out with a childhood memory of her father beating her mother at the breakfast table and of her, as a child, thinking that she needs to grow up to be more like her father (the one in charge) than her mother (the one who is beaten.) This horrific scene to open the book alerts the reader that this is no memoir of a lifetime of cozy meals with family and friends. The author goes through periods of depression and unhappy relationships that she details in the book.
Subtitled “An Autobiography of My Appetites,” the book is an intimate look back over the just-over-50-year-old author’s life as a writer, lover, daughter, sister, and fixer of meals. And, of course, as an eater. Not as a gourmet, or even a foodie – but as someone who eats, and sometimes doesn’t eat. She’s telling this story of her life as not always a “good” or healthful eater, but as a writer with a sense of the arc of her own narrative and of how telling details such as what we eat are.
Changes in the author’s life are reflected in her eating habits and the food she prepares for herself and others at different times and in different situations. She shares recipes from these different periods of her life – including a year in France; her undergraduate years at Reed College; her not-so-great time at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop; her years as a struggling writer in New York; with stops, trips, and food in between. But it’s not really a book about food as much as it’s the story of a life so far.
From the publisher’s description:
The physical and emotional sensuality that defines Christensen’s fiction resonates throughout the pages of Blue Plate Special. A vibrant celebration of life in all its truth and complexity, this book is about embracing the world through the transformative power of food: it’s about listening to your appetites, about having faith, and about learning what is worth holding on to and what is not.
The audiobook is narrated by Tavia Gilbert, and is so good! I believe it may have been a long-ago Weekend Cooking post by someone else that made me look for this book on audio, but I don’t remember who. If you liked Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, you will probably like Blue Plate Special by Kate Christensen.
Listen to an excerpt from the audiobook here.
Disclosure: I bought my own copy of Blue Plate Special as an audiobook download from Downpour. Last July! Yikes!
Blue Plate Special
Christensen, Kate, authorGilbert, Tavia, narrator
Random House Audio
July 9, 2013