Judith Newton grabbed me on the first page of Tasting Home. She laments the need to give up some of her treasured cookbooks as she moves into a new home. I joined in the mourning, for during my own recent move I did give away many of my own treasures, and now I repent and regret the decision just about every time that I walk by my kitchen bookcase. Fortunately, Newton realized that she must keep the books.
Good for her! For a couple of reasons: she still has those wonderful books and the memories they hold, and she opens up her shelves to us as she shares her turbulent life in this intriguing memoir. Food is home, and most times, home is in the kitchen. "I realized that cookbooks were more to me than a reflection of my past," she writes.
They are indeed, and she uses them, a variety of them, to tell her story. Tasting Home offers a bonus—many of the recipes come directly from familiar books. Some I own (or have owned), like Julia Child and the Moosewood books. Others are totally new-to-me books with recipes that make me start thinking about dinner tonight while I read in the morning.
"A girl who can sew like you, why would you want to go to college?" Newton's aunt's question seemed a natural one in her society of California working folks. Why would she? Fortunately her father and a wise school counselor prevailed. She left her boyfriend and headed for Stanford and an undreamed-of life. She never left school; she simply changed sides of the desk as she built her career in academia. Don't think an ivy-covered, quiet life. While growing and maintaining her career, Newton led a fascinating life marked by love, leaving, and loving again, and yet again. Sometimes turbulent, often sad (especially the saga of Dick, her bisexual first husband—the book is dedicated to his memory), there was always time for the kitchen, the cooking, and the solace of food.
As a dedicated cook and cookbook reader and as a contemporary of the author, I found this book a fascinating tour of my times. And often it could have been a tour of my kitchen. I recommend it. I feel better now when I walk by that kitchen bookcase, since Tasting Home has joined the survivors. I've made the peanut butter fudge. Okay, I've made it twice. Date butter is up next. Newton and I are going to get much better acquainted.
Read an excerpt from this book.
After a full academic career, Professor Emerita of Women and Gender Studies (UC Davis) Judith Newton is constantly expanding her writing arena. Following this memoir's publication, she is now writing a feminist mystery to add to the five academic books that she authored or coedited. With her husband Bill, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where they share dinner on the deck. Learn more of her life on her website and her Pinterest page.
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