Saturday, March 26, 2011

"My Kitchen Wars" (Book Fifteen)


My Kitchen Wars by Betty Fussell is a food memoir.I seem to be obsessed with a few things lately and food memoirs are one of them.I like to live vicariously though the lives of these amazing food women.Fussell uses foodie terms for her chapter titles to tell the story of her life.Her life as told by gender wars and food is an exciting tale.

Assault and Battery

In this first chapter, Fussell gives the reader a short synopsis of her battery and where it all came from.She says that “food, far more then sex, is the great leveler” (pg 5).

To Arms with Squeezer and Slicer

Chapter two tells of Fussell’s family history.This family of immigrants slowly migrated west ward until finally her father and mother settled in California.When she was two her mother killed herself by eating rat poison.

Annihilation by Pressure Cooker

Then year after her mother died, her father re-married to the wicked witch of the west.I can understand this horrible relationship with one’s step-mother.My own experience in this mirrors Fussell’s.Fussell was stuck in a house that was dominated by a woman who did not like her and had no children (nor the desire to have any) of her own.Her brother left the house the day he turned eighteen leaving her behind.

Blitzed by Bottle Caps and Screws

When Fussell turned eighteen she went off to college.For the “first time in my life, I drank coffee, black and at every meal” (pg 51).Fussell tells about the gender inequality of college life in the 1940s.“Men students had no chores and no rules whatsoever, except that they were not allowed to bring women into their rooms” (53).During this time she met her future husband Paul.She says she should have headed the warning signs at this time and not married him, but she was in love and he treated her like less than nothing.

Invasion of the Waring Blenders

A year and a half after they “broke up” Betty and Paul met again and decided to get married.Fussell was inundated with all the silver and other wedding gifts that she had no idea what to do with.Her family was not rich and Paul’s was.After the wedding and the honeymoon period Paul went back to his graduated studies, but what was Betty to do while he studied all day.She knew that she was expected to be a housewife, to cook and keep the house.What she ended up doing is getting her master degree.Paul had mixed feelings about this.He believed that women were inferior but at the same time he demanded an intelligent spouse.Then she became pregnant.They both pretended that a baby would not change their life style.Of course this was just a delusion and everything did change.

Ambushed by Rack and Tong

Motherhood changed everything.But, motherhood had changed from the time of the generation before.Fussell began spending lots of time in the kitchen, this became a bottle factory.She tells us that at one time cookbooks would tell a woman about everything she needed to know about being a wife or mother, but by the time Fussell became a mother these helpful hints and tips no longer dominated cookbooks.Motherhood also separated her and the child in the kitchen from Paul in his office carving out a career for himself.After an extended stay in Germany, Fussell returns to the states to give birth to her second child.

Hot Grills

Now that Fussell has two children in her life story I thought that she would write about them more and more. There was a distinct lack of details about her children.In this chapter she tells the reader about all the parties that she and Paul held.These thinly veiled food gatherings were just pretence for sex and wife swapping.After some time she finally gives into the adulterous ways of the life style.Fussell has a seven year affair with a married man.She learns later that Paul was having an affair at this same time with one of his single colleges.

Attcked by Whisk and Cuisinart

Being the wife of a professor, Fussell, was expected to not have a career, but to be the prefect hostess.She and her counterparts would spend hours slaving in the kitchen for a single event.“A key rule of this demanding sport was that she who plays the hostess must also cook and serve” (pg 153).The wives were expected to be amateur-pro in the kitchen and a lady in the dining room.Then in 1961 Julia Child came along, with her batterie de cuisine.Which lead to a decade of French elaborate cooking.Only ending with the advent of the Cuisinart in the 1970s.

To Sea in a Sieve

The last transatlantic trip Betty and Paul took was in 1976 spelled the beginning of the end for their marriage.

Cold Cleavers

In 1980 Fussell decided that she needed to get her PhD.Paul did not understand this and thought that she was jealous of his career.More cracks in the marriage resulted, but she got her degree.This chapter just describes the crumbling marriage and more gender wars.In the end she finds her husband naked with a male student in his study.

Breaking and Entering with a Wooden Spoon

Betty and Paul get a divorce and sell the house that they had lived in for some many years.She now has to find her way in the world by herself and she is thankful for that.She can learn how to write, even though Paul didn’t think that she could.

In the end she overcame the gender war between her and Paul.Now she could live a life with no apologies.

As always, I appreciate your comments or book recommendations. ~Dianna

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