My Kitchen Wars

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My Kitchen Wars is a war story–but the warrior is a woman, the battleground is the kitchen, and the weapons are the batterie de cuisine with which Betty Fussell evokes her era’s domestic battles. As much about hunger-emotional, sexual, intellectual-as it is about food, this fierce and funny memoir takes no prisoners.


My Kitchen Wars Penguin Cover“Fussell’s opening chapter, “Assualt and Battery,” is one of the most remarkable bits of food writing I’ve ever encountered—a clever, seductive, funny, tightly composed meditation that really does make palpable the complicated mess of memory through the metaphor of cooking—sensual, brutal, artful, manipulative.”
“Food, Sex and Fussell,” from Patricia Unterman’s column, On Food, San Francisco Examiner 1/23/2000

“Culinary memoirs have been piling up like flapjacks¬† in recent years, but Fussell’s beautifully written little book avoids the sentimental cliches of the genre. We know food is love already. What Fussell wants to tell us about is war. The marriage she describes here was a battleground, although the combatants tried to believe that because they ate together, they were on the same side. Her psyche, of course, was another battleground. Was she her own woman, or Paul’s? Steeped as she is in the emotional complexity and powerful symbolism of the meals she prepared, she describes them with all her senses blazing. ‘A single well-aimed blow severs chest from tail and brings a merciful and instantaneous death,” she writes, on the subject of lobsters. A few paragraphs later, she reports that late in her marriage she began sleeping with a cleaver under her pillow but didn’t quite know why.”
Laura Shapiro, “Eating With the Enemy, Newsweek, 10/18/1999

“In the end, her book reveals a life of resilience honed at the jaws of a perfect marriage of adversity, with a great sparring partner with whom she sharpened her intellect and built the broad life experience that defines her today, understanding that “The kitchen mediates between power and submission and love and hate and all the other dynamics of living and dying, day by day.'”
Anita Comtois Moore, “Food Fight,”¬† from Bookshelf, Pomona College Magazine, Spring 2000

“Food writer Fussell whips up a tartly funny history of post-World War II domesticity in this memoir of her marriage to cultural historian Paul Fussell. As a newlywed in 1940, she cooked such delicacies as tuna casserole with Lipton’s onion soup. When Paul’s academic star rose, she expanded her culinary repertoire, first by grilling steaks for drunken, horny faculty picnic, and later by seducing Princeton’s literary elite with gourmet dinners of mind-boggling complexity. Fussell concocts black comedy out of her generation’s fascination with French cuisine, fancy cookware, and high-minded adultery, until a shocking indiscretion on Paul’s part sours the marriage.”
Entertainment Weekly 11/12/1999

“Admirers of Betty Fussell’s work as one of America’s premier foodies (she is the author of, among other things, the celebrated The Story of Corn, which, though it sounds as it belongs on Mad magazine’s shelf of very short books, is an exhaustive, scholarly, and entertaining account of—dare I say it?—the goodness of maize) will appreciate My Kitchen Wars as the tale of a woman who overcame an unfortunate childhood and shucked her uxorial chains to come into her own as a sensualist and an epicure. By her own admission, though, Betty didn’t effect his transformation until she was in her 50s. Before that, she was always under someone’s thumb.”
Glenn Dixon, “Home Front,” Washington City Paper 12/03/1999

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