Cover image for My kitchen wars
My kitchen wars
Fussell, Betty Harper.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : North Point Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
238 pages ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TX649.F87 F87 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Using as her weapon a lifelong need to make dinner, love, and war, Betty Fussell pries open the past and gives voice to a generation of women whose stories were shaped but also silenced by an era of global conflict, from World War II to Vietnam.

Author Notes

Betty Fussell is the author of nine books. A Contributor to publications including The New York Times and The New Yorker, she has lectured widely on food history. She lives in New York City.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Readers who assume that cookbook author Fussell's autobiography is just another charming foodie memoir will be in for a startling surprise. In the story of Fussell's childhood and her marriage to writer Paul Fussell, the kitchen is a battlefield as often as it is a haven. Fussell's kitchen wars began as a child, when the denial of taste, of food as pleasure, was just one of the ways her puritanical stepmother inflicted her will upon Betty and her brother. Fussell escaped her stepmother when she went to college and met Paul, who introduced her to the life of the mind. Unfortunately, she quickly learned that, although her taste buds were liberated, her intellectual aspirations were to remain unfulfilled in the role of faculty wife and mother. The outlines of Fussell's story are similar to many other feminist coming-of-age memoirs, but there is a distinct and fascinating difference. Being tied to the kitchen was among the manifestations of Fussell's servitude as faculty wife, and while she resented the forced confinement, she liked the kitchen just fine: "If you could stand the heat, did you have to get out of the kitchen?" She eventually did get out of Fussell's kitchen--spurred on by both her own infidelities and his dalliances with male students--but it is food writing that finally gives her the sense of self she craved while serving canapes to the likes of R. P. Blackmur and Kingsley Amis. It is what kitchens stand for in Fussell's life--servitude and liberation, simultaneously--that gives this compelling memoir its delicious irony. The author (and chef) knows how to get the most from her ingredients, and she uses not only irony but also self-deprecating humor and poignant understatement with delicate precision. "God help me, I love it," General Patton said of war as he stood on an ancient battleground. Fussell might say the same of kitchens. --Bill Ott

Publisher's Weekly Review

As befits a noted food historian and writer (I Hear America Cooking), Fussell recounts how the domestic wars of her childhood, marriage and family life played out in a succession of kitchensÄin brilliant vignettes marked by appealing humor, biting irony and unflinching honesty. In the house where Fussell was born, the scene of her father's delight in squeezing oranges became, before Fussell was two, that of the death of her high-strung mother, with an open tin of rat poison mutely testifying to the cause. Until Fussell escaped to college, she endured the harsh restrictions of a hostile stepmother whose favorite appliance was the pressure cooker. At school, Fussell concentrated on the primary mission of every girl in the late 1940s: landing a man. When she married Paul, a literature student, the inevitable wedding present of that eraÄa Waring blenderÄsymbolized the beginning of a sophisticated lifestyle. Paul focused on his career in academe, while Betty enthusiastically embraced her role as wife and mother, and turned entertaining into a competitive sport. In the 1960s, the Fussells' circle turned to erotic excess: Betty recalls drunken wife-swapping and her own illicit affair, and she offers gossipy tidbits about Kingsley Amis and Philip Roth. Paul's book, The Great War and Modern Memory, brought him acclaim but, according to Betty, he continually demeaned her writing efforts. Their marriage failed after his homosexual affair with a student. Fussell was finally able to make her own way using what the French call a "batterie de cuisine" (kitchen artillery), displaying her considerable talents in such publications as the New York Times and nine of her own books. Agent, Gloria Loomis, Watkins Loomis Agency. First serial to the New Yorker; 8-city author tour. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Fussell's riveting memoir parallels the lives of many women who fought their own private wars against a backdrop of tense world politics. Readers will empathize with her dysfunctional West Coast childhood, anticipate her liberation as she attends college during World War II, and celebrate her romantic marriage to a veteran with a promising academic career (historian Paul Fussell). Life as a young faculty wife began with earthy, pot-luck picnics and flirtation and evolved into elaborate, multicourse dinner parties, extramarital affairs, and boredom during the affluent, turbulent Sixties. Her marriage failing, Fussell embarked on her own remarkable career, becoming a food historian/writer acclaimed for her most recent work, The Story of Corn (LJ 7/92). More intense than Ruth Reichel's Tender at the Bone (LJ 3/15/98), this work features dark humor and stunning gastronomic descriptions that will speak to Fussell's contemporaries and astonish younger generations fighting different battles today. Recommended for public libraries.ÄBonnie Poquette, Shorewood P.L., WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Assault and Batteryp. 3
To Arms with Squeezer and Slicerp. 7
Annihilation by Pressure Cookerp. 26
Blitzed by Bottle Caps and Screwsp. 50
Invasion of the Waring Blendersp. 69
Ambushed by Rack and Tongp. 92
Hot Grillsp. 120
Attack by Whisk and Cuisinartp. 147
To Sea in a Sievep. 171
Cold Cleaversp. 197
Breaking and Entering with a Wooden Spoonp. 221