Summer Reading: “Perfection Salad,” “Spoon-Fed” and more

You’d be hard-pressed to find a higher authority on women and food than Laura Shapiro.

The former Newsweek writer has carved a niche for herself in the food and gender studies worlds for her books and articles on women in and out of the kitchen. She covered the women’s movement for an alternative newspaper in Boston in the 1970s, and in the 1980s, she published “Perfection Salad,” which I somehow successfully pitched for my food book club’s next meeting. (Nothing sells a book like “aspic” in the first line of the book summary, let me tell you.)

(I’m in the middle of “Something From the Oven,” which Shapiro published in 2004 and could be considered the sequel to “Perfection Salad.”)

When I pitched the book to my (mostly female) book club members, I’d forgotten to beef up Shapiro’s cred by mentioning how cutting edge — and Feminist Kitchen friendly — her food writing continues to be.

She was writing about Gabrielle Hamilton and the state of women chefs in Gourmet magazine way back in 2008 and the weird election campaign ritual of expecting prospective first ladies to swap recipes, and defending Alice Waters. She published a Julia Child biography at the same time “Julie and Julia” was coming out. (Shapiro didn’t shy away from writing a scathing opinion piece on exactly one half of the movie.)

So, for the next few weeks, I’m going to be reading a lot of Laura Shapiro and thought some of you might be interested to read along. Part of my book club duties are to come up with 10 questions about the book to get people thinking and talking, and I might as well share them on here, too.

It’s not exactly a full fledged book club, but it’s a start.

If you’re looking for some other good books to read this summer, check out a few of the other titles on the required reading page. I just added Kim Severson’s wonderful memoir “Spoon-Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life.” It’s an intimate look at some of the most well-known women in culinary history, including the cook who is telling the story.

Severson will be in Austin for the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual conference this week, and I’m looking forward to meeting her, as well as other food friends I’ve gotten to know virtually over the past few years.

I’ll be blogging from the Hilton on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday over on my Statesman food blog, Relish Austin, but hopefully I’ll find time for a Feminist Kitchen post from the conference and festivities, as well.

3 responses to “Summer Reading: “Perfection Salad,” “Spoon-Fed” and more

  1. was following all the tweets on perfection salad a couple of weeks ago and promptly picked up my library copy. next in the queue.

  2. I read her Julia Child biography a while back. I didn’t know about LS’ writing background, but you made me feel like reading Perfection Salad and the rest. Thanks !

  3. Next time I see you I have to bring you a book I found at Goodwill a few years ago. It’s a reprint of a housekeeping manual from the late 19th century. (Think “Hip Girls” vintage. Very vintage.) It is a fascinating peek at domestic ideals from that time and it sounds like the perfect complement to Perfection Salad.

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