Read Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life by Kim Severson Online


From the prominent New York Times food writer, a memoir recounting the tough life lessons she learned from a generation of female cooks-including Marion Cunningham, Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, Rachael Ray, and Marcella Hazan. Somewhere between the lessons her mother taught her as a child and the ones she is now trying to teach her own daughter, Kim Severson stumbled. She lFrom the prominent New York Times food writer, a memoir recounting the tough life lessons she learned from a generation of female cooks-including Marion Cunningham, Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, Rachael Ray, and Marcella Hazan. Somewhere between the lessons her mother taught her as a child and the ones she is now trying to teach her own daughter, Kim Severson stumbled. She lost sight of what mattered, of who she was and who she wanted to be, and of how she wanted to live her life. It took a series of women cooks to reteach her the life lessons she forgot-and some she had never learned in the first place. Some as small as a spoonful, and others so big they saved her life, the best lessons she found were delivered in the kitchen. Told in Severson's frank, often funny, always perceptive style, Spoon Fed weaves together the stories of eight important cooks with the lessons they taught her-lessons that seemed to come right when she needed them most. We follow Kim's journey from an awkward adolescent to an adult who channeled her passions into failing relationships, alcohol, and professional ambition, almost losing herself in the process. Finally as Severson finds sobriety and starts a family of her own, we see her mature into a strong, successful woman, as we learn alongside her. An emotionally rich, multilayered memoir and an inspirational, illuminating series of profiles of the most influential women in the world of food, Spoon Fed is Severson's story and the story of the women who came before her-and ultimately, a testament to the wisdom that can be found in the kitchen....

Title : Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781594487576
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 242 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life Reviews

  • Katherine
    2019-04-13 17:24

    An interesting and pleasant read, but I had a couple of limitations with it.First of all, Severson really strains on occasion to make the connection between her personal story and those of the people she's profiling. Her story is interesting, their stories are interesting, and they even fit fairly well together most of the time, making the "I'm an alcoholic! Marion Cunningham was an alcoholic!" moments feel forced and unnecessary. She would have been better off letting the reader make the connections rather than pointing them out to us in such a heavy-handed manner.Secondly, the Ruth Reichel chapter made me really uncomfortable--and not because of her various accusations about Reichel. It's her simultaneous depiction of Reichel as the popular girl (who, of course, may have fabricated some of her books and is pretentious and ridiculous) and as someone that Severson really likes--no really. I've quite enjoyed Reichel's work and was dismayed by the accusations. But I'd be better prepared to accept them if they weren't all mixed up in this insincere mess of snark and affection. I was left with pretty strongly mixed feelings about BOTH Reichel and Severson, which I don't think was Severson's intention. It would have been a stronger book without the cattiness, even if Severson had left in the accusations.So, flawed but interesting. Perhaps like the author.

  • Michele
    2019-03-23 19:18

    Definitely no Ruth Reichl. I didn't care for this book because it was like the reader was watching someone try to find themselves through therapy. Maybe if she wasn't so insecure and focused more on the interesting points of her life, this book wouldn't have felt like torture.

  • Beth
    2019-04-13 17:32

    I started out thinking 3, maybe 4 stars, but ended up connecting with her writing on a grand scale. A food writer writing about food while writing about life itself, and slowly, her words snuck into my soul! Unexpectedly, for sure. Satisfying indeed, like a special meal? (Couldn't resist...)

  • Lex
    2019-03-28 23:40

    Based on this book and Frank Bruni's book, I'm going to go ahead and say that being completely neurotic and self-absorbed is a prerequisite to being a NYT food writer.The bits of the book about her relationship with her mom and her mom's cooking were redeeming, though.. very sweet.

  • Linds
    2019-04-12 20:26

    The author rubbed me the wrong way at times, but I liked the parts about her relationship with her mother and enjoyed learning about the chefs/food people that she profiles in the book.

  • Erin
    2019-04-01 23:28

    it was somewhat entertaining, but overall, I thought it was sort of 'choppy' reading zig-zaged in time and in thought.

  • Rich
    2019-03-26 20:40

    I’ve not previously read a “food memoir” but I sure loved this one! I enjoyed the blend of culinary adventures and little life truisms. Really easy to read, with good messages and some tasty-sounding recipes to boot.

  • Hollie
    2019-04-11 16:22


  • Christine Zibas
    2019-04-12 17:43

    A food writer for the “New York Times,” Kim Severson takes a different look at the subject of food in this memoir. Approaching it from the life lessons hidden in her journey through a career immersed in food, it is perhaps just as much biographical as autobiographical. That is, she writes with candor about many of the important women in food who have influenced her life. These are real flesh and blood portraits, with flaws fully exposed.No one’s life comes under finer scrutiny in “Spoon Fed” than Severson’s own, however. She begins the story when her food writing career takes off. Newly sober after a long battle with alcoholism, Severson embarks on a career at the “San Francisco Chronicle,” more than a little ironic perhaps because of the local food scene’s emphasis on the wine culture of Napa and Sonoma. Severson is also struggling in her personal relationships (she is a lesbian in a new relationship), as well as trying to find her place within her own family, who like many cut from Midwest cloth, just don’t talk about sex, much less homosexuality.Facing her demons and the challenge of moving to an innovative food and wine-centered location after years of living in Alaska, Severson succeeds despite her own expectations. She eventually goes on to win several James Beard Awards for her food writing and lands a plum spot at the coveted “New York Times,” a dream that perhaps surpasses her goals. Along the way, she’s awed and intimidated by the doyennes of the food business: Alice Waters, Marion Cunningham, Ruth Reichl, and Marcella Hazan, among others.Severson is able to gain insight and knowledge from each of eight featured women, including her first cooking inspiration-her own mother, who along with her own sisters (Severson’s aunts) finds herself competing over whose version of Italian red sauce in the family is best. What the author is able to take away from these women, even more than their collective cooking expertise, are lessons about living.Cooking, here, is both a way to enjoy life and a way to handle what life throws in your way to happiness. Simple messages (staying true to yourself, persevering when it seems impossible, being able to reinvent yourself, and others) are illustrated through the grit and determination of these women who have managed to rise through the largely male-dominated business of fine food.The lessons shared with Severson’s readers in “Spoon Fed” seem to come effortlessly, wrapped in writing so homey and sincere that it’s hard to imagine the rarefied setting that all this insight emerged from. That is to say, Severson has a true gift for boiling it all down to human frailty and hard work, to making these hard-driven women who never gave up on their way up the ladder to success seem ordinary and humble. Whether it’s Alice Waters creating a food revolution in Berkeley or Rachel Ray creating a multimedia empire by providing dinner in 30 minutes, each is made human with Severson’s touch.“Spoon Fed” is about cooking (recipes included), the food industry, and making the most of the life lessons you need to build a world that’s perfect for you. These industry giants have more to teach than the secrets of food, they appear to have some lessons about life as well.

  • Patrice Sartor
    2019-03-28 18:19

    I found this title very easy to read; Severson's writing flows easily and smoothly. I chuckled out loud in a few spots. I also liked reading the author's views on the 8 female cooks that "saved her life". I was unfamiliar with some of them, and enjoyed learning about them. The descriptions and discussions of food are solid, and I was tempted to try several of the included recipes as a result. I didn't, though a friend told me that all of the recipes are on Severson's web site. Cool.What keeps this book from earning a higher score from me is the tone and repetition, and to a lesser degree the name-dropping (since that is to be expected in this book). Severson is an alcholic, a recovering one for most of the book--we do not get to read any detailed stories about the bad days of drinking, just generalities. Severson is a lesbian. Severson has (had?) mother issues, self-esteem and confidence problems, and went through a number of bad relationships before finding her wife. There is nothing wrong with any of this information on its own, and the way the author tells it does add to the overall story. Yet she repeats these things until I felt like I was being pounded over the head with them. YES, I get it. You cannot drink, you're an alcoholic!!! I didn't really understand why she felt there were difficulties with her mother, but I didn't need to hear about that repeatedly (or any of the other things) either.A member of my book club pointed out a possible reason for this--several of these stories were originally published in the newspaper (she initially wrote for the Chronicle, and later The New York Times). If treated separately, I can see how the author would need to keep mentioning these aspects of her life. So maybe it's the editor's fault? I don't know, I just know it bugged me enough to keep it at 3 stars. :)

  • Bettyann
    2019-04-12 00:19

    An awesome writer, Kim Severson. First work I've read of hers, but I'll be looking for more. Not only did I learn a lot about cooking--Italian style, a favorite--I learned some things about myself, if you can believe that. Of course, this is a coming-of-age story, and sometimes we come of age all over again by reading certain books. This was one of them.I liked her story about the painted black dining room table and inheriting it from her parents when they downsize to a condo:"It's the dining room table I grew up with. The place where the special meals were served. I have eaten hundreds of plates of spaghetti on it. I feel the need to keep it, to pass it on to my children. I want to say, 'This was your grandmother's table.' I want them to know what I learned when I went home. That we are a people who can always make do, no matter what. And that you can never really know who you are until you know where you came from. And then I will make them sit down and eat spaghetti, and tell them the story of the red-sauce trail." "That we are a people who can always make do, no matter what." The author shares some of my important view on life. And I too never really knew who I was until I knew where I came from. That's what my own memoir is all about. I tried to get away from where I came from. And I did. But I left an awful lot behind that is all about who I am. Highly recommend reading if you like food memoirs, or just good memoirs, period.

  • Heather
    2019-04-15 23:35

    I loved this book! I think I heard about it on a blog and don't recall much about what the blogger said but put it on my library list and up it popped and I started reading. From the beginning I really liked it. At times I felt like the writing or story telling was sort of choppy yet it all came together, every story. I loved the recipes (and now want to buy the book to have access to them) and just, in general, really appreciated her life lessons. I feel like she is a bit of a kindred spirit. One of my favorites excerpts was the following passage talking about her mom's table she has kept: "The place where the special meals were served. I have eaten hundreds of plates of spaghetti on it. I feel the need to keep it, to pass it on to my children. I want to say, "This was your grandmother's table." I want them to know what I learned when I went home. That we are a people who can always make do, no matter what. And that you can never really know who you are until you know where you came from."(especially poignant as I have my grandparents first table from when they were married and love it for that and for the hundreds of informal family meals eaten at it.. for me the special meals were the informal ones)Yeah...just reading that again makes me well up a little. Also what I loved about this book was the history lesson on Alice Waters, Marion Cunningham, Edna Lewis, etc. All very interesting ... Yes - I would highly recommend this book!!!

  • cat
    2019-04-01 21:20

    i am a sucker for foodie memoirs - food + words = my perfect book. and addd in that it is by a woman food writer/critic with an illustrious career at such vaunted institutions as the NY Times? and that she is a dyke? *and* that chronicles the ways that 8 other famous female chefs mentored her, taught her life lessons, or otherwise contributed to her general well being and you have got a winner, my friends! except, well, that it wasn't. i expected to have this be a 5 star review, and instead it is a tepid 3 star affair, largely owing to the fact that i wanted more. more of the personal story that she tried to weave in to her anecdotes about the female chefs that make up the 8 of her subtitle - and that include such luminaries as Marcella Hazen and Alice Waters- and frankly, more than what she gave us of those 8. the book ended up with a feeling of an extended name-dropping session rather than the very personal homage that i believed it would be. what is interesting to me is that right smack dab in the middle of her book, the author actually chides herself for just that name-dropping, 'look at me, i know celebrities' kind of behavior when she pulls out her cell phone and makes her family listen to a voicemail from rachel ray. and really? of all of the amazing chefs in this book, it is rachel ray that gets passed around the table to be listened to in a tinny voicemail on a mobile phone? i think that describes the problems of this book better than i ever could.

  • Jacqie
    2019-03-28 20:31

    This is a well-written, dishy little food memoir. Kim Severson is bravely honest about her past addictions, relationship problems, and feelings about God without becoming maudlin. It will help to know the players in her book; such as Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, and Marcella Hazan. The author is probably going to get some flak for her characterizations of some famous people. She talks about their flaws, albeit with affection. I was surprised by the foodie community reaction (according to Severson) to Ruth Reichl's books. I always felt that Ruth was being honest about feeling her way- I never saw her as self-satisfied or smug. I guess insecurity can really color a person's point of view. And it helps to remember that these profiles are very much the author's point of view.I teared up at the section about Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. They are a pair that I feel very close to, although I've never met either of them and probably never will. Their ability to forge a family out of affinity is so admirable. I feel such sympathy for Scott having lost his mentor and hope he struggles on. I own the cookbook they wrote together as well as "Taste of Country Cooking." Having an affinity for things Southern, even though it's not my ancestry, I treasure their take on growing, fresh things that can be turned into deliciousness.

  • Emily
    2019-04-01 00:38

    I met the author when she came to Google to do research on our organic garden. She's quite the trip (like, a powerhouse, funny, self deprecating, self aware, assertive), so when I heard she was writing a book I made a mental note to read it. I did enjoy it -- if you like food gossip you will like this, as there is a lot of it about Ruth Reichl, Alice Waters, etc. It made me want to BE a food writer. As if I didn't already. It was also just a fun look at California and the Bay Area in a certain time. Plus, Kim's got some good stories and has met some good people. She's one of those people who you imagine just STUMBLES on fascinating stories and things everyday. So why 3 stars? Well, the "saved my life" premise just didn't hold up. It promised too much. the 8 cooks? they're awesome. Did they save her life? Doesn't seem like it... just seems like a sorta flimsy thing to wrap around a memoir. Kim seems like she saved her life herself. Related, I do feel like there's a bit too much repetition, around the same themes (being an alcoholic, being sober, being lesbian, etc), without really getting deep into what it actually felt like. It felt like she was holding back on me on that stuff, and so she kinda lost me. Still. Fun. There were some recipes I wish I'd copied down.

  • Monica Williams
    2019-04-06 22:20

    Severson is a mother, daughter, partner, alcoholic (even those who no longer drink still consider themselves to be alcholics), reporter, and food writer. Some how a long the line she lost something of herself and through the work and writings of eight cooks she found herself. Marion Cunningham taught her that you can always start over, even later in life. Severson looked upon Ruth Reichel(former food critic of the NY Times) as this untouchable goddess always part of the "in" crowd, but discovers that even those we admire are comparing themselves to others and finding themselves lacking. Alice Waters, who revolutionized cooking did it my not giving up no matter what the odds. Leah Chase, a New Orleans based cook and restaurant owner teaches her all about faith and that even the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina cannot take away her hope for something better. Severson, who is gay talks about her coming out. Rachael Ray is the celebrity chef she most identifies with, not just because she met her when Ray was first becoming a big star, but because they are both women whose mothers made them the person they are are today. Each of these women has helped to make Severson the woman she is today. Severson's journey is an interesting well written one!

  • Rogue Reader
    2019-04-06 19:30

    Spoon Fed is about the making and maturation of a food writer. Kim Severson grew up well loved and taken care of as a member of the Severson tribe - spoon fed, perhaps, but always feeling an outsider. Alcohol fueled her early adult years and nearly destroyed her even as Severson honed her craft, writing for the Alaska Daily News. Severson's culinary narrative traces her writing at the San Francisco Chronicle and later at the New York Times. Spoon fed might also refer to the eight women who are featured in the work, who nutured those around them with everyday cooking, comfort food. In the shadow of haute cuisine, these women helped gain credibility and respect for the everyday table as a symbol of love and care. Marion Cunningham, Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, Marcella Hazen, Rachael Ray, Edna Lewis, Leah chase and Kim's mother Anne-Marie Zappa Serson are the women Severson interviews and writes about. These women are well known in culinary history and there's lots already written about them. Severson's work puts these their accomplishments in later perspective because the women are older, some have passed, and others are further ahead in their careers. --Ashland Mystery

  • Rama
    2019-04-02 22:20

    An interesting memoir with a touch of foodThis is an interesting memoir of the author who finds friends, life, creativity, career, and artistic side of cooking after her own addiction to alcohol. The author journeys from California to Alaska and finally to New York, and narrates her experience in this little book with a style that everyone would enjoy. This is not really a cookbook, but a book about her interaction with eight prominent women in cooking profession who influenced her in her career. The author is a food writer for the New York Times, and previously reported for the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Anchorage Daily News. She has a lucid writing skill which is reflected in text. She does not get into the details of her personal life but at the same time she eases through the pages stressing the finer things in life she learnt from her friends and getting over her personal setbacks early in her life. At the end of each chapter she provides a recipe from each of her cooking friends, as an example what she learnt from them. This is not a recipe book, but I certainly recommend Marion Cunningham's Raised waffles recipe for your sumptuous breakfast on a Sunday morning!

  • Maija
    2019-04-04 23:21

    Kim Severson writes about various famous foodies/writers/cooks that had influence on her as she found her own way in her food journalism career. If you've read other foodie bio/memoirs or the food history - United States of Arugula, this will cover some stories you may have already heard. It was a quick read and I enjoyed most of it, but I just didn't love it. Part of it was how did she end with this foodie job with very little experience or knowledge? And, like I said, some of the stories were ones I'd read before or just seemed gossipy. I did enjoy particularly the chapter about Edna Lewis, as I just adore her.

  • James
    2019-03-25 22:17

    I enjoy a good memoir and I fancy myself a foody, so what would be better than reading a memoir by a New York Times food writer? Well this is not great literature. The subtitle "How Eight Cooks Saved My Life" is a bit hyperbolic in most cases. Really these are eight cooks who Kim Severson, respects, learned a lot from, and useful literary devices employed by Severson to describe her personal development. And then she shares some of their recipes at the end of each chapter. Some of the recipes look really good. The writing was not great but it wasn't bad. I won't be looking for Severson's next book but this was mildly entertaining.

  • Margaret
    2019-04-19 16:31

    Overall, the book was a bit of a disappointment in the sense that the author never really persuaded me that her life was "saved" by any/most of the cooks. I really enjoyed, however, the glimpse into the personal lives of well-known foodies like Alice Waters and Ruth Reichl as well as Severson's development as a food writer. I think that the book would've benefited from being framed as a broader memoir about family, sexuality, & addiction in addition to being about food. As a result, the book often felt a bit fragmented. I also thought there was a surprising lack of actual eating & home cooking discussed in the book.

  • Jennifer
    2019-04-10 18:33

    Overall delightful read/memoir about San Francisco Chronicle and eventually NY Times food writer Kim Severson's experiences with food, how they were shaped, and interviews/musings on several food icons like Marcella Hazan, Rachel Ray, Marion Cunningham, Alice Waters, her mom, Ruth Riechl, Edna Lewis and Leah Chase. I particularly loved the beginning where she relocates from Alaska to San Francisco, falls in love with Alice Waters, Meyer lemons and all things California cuisine. Severson has a great writing style and manages to portray her personal identity struggles (alcholism, feeling like a fraud, gay oh and finding god)through food writing and learning from women she admires. Here here!

  • Karen
    2019-04-12 20:18

    Full disclosure: I'm obsessed with who and what influences people to do what they do (chefs, writers, artists). So, this book was right up my alley. Kim Severson, a journalist, chronicles her main influencers from her mother to Ruth Reichel. It's an interesting glance into the crazy food writing world, particularly from its infancy to today, where it is a huge industry.Severson is a great writer, but there was something about the book that didn't click 100% - I loved all the stories, but they didn't really come together in a clean way. However, it's still a fun read and it definitely provides some fun stories and tidbits along the way

  • Jennifer
    2019-04-22 18:20

    Kim Severson's "kitchen memoir" is more about what eight women taught her about life than it is what they taught her about food. Some of the lessons are clear; Edna Lewis' connection to a world where food was simply itself helped teach Severson about the need for authenticity and how families are made. Some lessons are not so easily gleaned; the antagonistic interview with Marcella Hazan leaves the reporter without the approbation she so wanted from the culinary great. A good, thoughtful read, this book left me thinking about the connections with the women in my life and how I would describe their influences upon me.

  • Meg
    2019-03-25 17:34

    I love books about/by chefs. I think I was meant to be a chef in another life. :) When I saw this, I grabbed it...a book about a woman chef? Lovely. The book was well written...a bit hard for me to get into...but after I did, it was an interesting read...and talked about some interesting chefs I had never heard of.I'll probably forget the book in a couple of months, nothing too memorable, but the author managed to write a lot about herself, while sharing stories about the women who have inspired her. Check it out if you like books about cooking.

  • Jennifer
    2019-04-14 21:22

    It took a little while to get into the book, but I did find that I warmed to the author and found the women she writes about intriguing. Despite the fact that the book is a collection of personal anecdotes about the reader, it quickly became more of a "who's who" of American chefs, which interested me. I was also excited to see that I've read enough "foodie" books now that different authors are now recounting the same stories and I'm familiar with the names they drop before they describe them! A solid book.

  • Lisa
    2019-04-06 17:41

    Reading books about food is an indulgence that I allow myself regularly, but confessional memoirs make me nervous. Will the writer be smug? Narcissistic? Falsely modest? Kim Severson quickly won me over. By the end of Spoon Fed I felt like she was one of my oldest friends, a buddy from Girl Scout camp say, with whom I'd broken a few rules, whispered secrets to deep into the night and would stand by forever. There are fun stories here about iconic chefs and culinary luminaries, but the main reason to read it is to get to know Kim Severson herself.

  • Danika
    2019-03-23 00:42

    Very quick and enjoyable memoir. The author spends each chapter on a different woman who has influenced her life as a food writer. The chapters cover her own mother along with such legends as Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl and Marcella Hazan. I'd recommend this to anyone who is into food writers, esp those who have Italian heritage, as does the author. Note that the author spends a fair portion of the book talking about her own life struggles (it IS a memoir), which include her alcoholism and coming out as a lesbian. That said, I really liked the author's tone and the format.

  • Carla Catalano
    2019-04-02 23:27

    Spoon Fed by Kim Severson, a New York Times journalist was refreshing, delicious and inspirational. Kim's heartfelt memoir reveals not only the cooking secrets of some of the biggest names in the Culinary world, but a survival guide and wisdom for life. It was so enjoyable - I took notes! I want to compare the finest chocolates side by side, as well as find a copy of Edna Lewis's, Essay and read "What it Means to be Southern, I will remember when it is time to "show up" for my parents and I understand the complexities of an American childhood tied to Italian roots. Bon Appetit!

  • Emily
    2019-04-06 22:17

    Like for the author, food was definitely a connection to my parents, to love, to relationship. The journey we take with Kim is interesting....we know she's a darn good journalist, a darn good food writer, but the personal investment in getting to know her subjects (the great food writers and cooks of our time) and getting their approval has echoes in our own lives. It's not a perfect book...the tied up loose ends at the end seem a bit forced to me....but the rewards along the way are great. And I love the portraits of the 8 cooks...