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If Julia Child had cooked Italian for a gay husband, used sugar to sweeten a sour childhood, and hosted buffets for a better world, she could have written Tasting Home: Coming of Age in the Kitchen.
In this food memoir, Judith Newton shares the unforgettable story of a life on the front lines of activism and in the kitchen. During a difficult childhood, food and cooking were sources of comfort and emotional sustenance. And in the decades to come, through her marriage to a gay man, her discovery of feminism, her life in a commune, and her career as an academic, she used food to sustain personal and political relationships, mourn losses, and celebrate victories. As she earned her activist stripes in the 1960s and beyond, she also learned how food could ease tension, foster community, and build cross-racial ties.
Tasting Home combines recipes with personal vignettes, in the classic form of food memoirs by writers such as M.F.K. Fisher and Ruth Reichl, to take us on a remarkable journey through the cuisines, cultural spirit, and politics of the 1940s through the 2000s inviting us to feel how deeply food is tied to identity, love, community, and political engagement.
See an essay based on this book, “A Valentine for My Gay Ex-Husband,” at Huffington Post Judith Newton.
Tasting Home has received ten independent press awards and a starred review (meaning “outstanding in its genre”) from Publisher’s Weekly Select.
“ . . . a baby-boomer’s dream: a book full of anecdotes about coming of age during the sexual revolution of the sixties — with recipes! . . . an ingeniously conceived, tightly written, and beautifully packaged memoir, a vibrant portrait of the American feminine cultural experience from the 1950s forward.” Independent Publisher
“Tasting Home is more than a food memoir. Influenced by the civil rights struggle, the women’s movement, and the AIDS epidemic, it is an odyssey of emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth. Cooking serves as a powerful
metaphor for the difficulties and pleasures of relations among mothers and daughters; husbands and wives; gays and heterosexuals; and racial-ethnic groups. Tasting Home, like a grand meal, is a resounding
success.” — Belinda Robnett, author of How Long? How Long? African-American Women in the Struggle for Civil Rights.
Here’s What Several Reviewers Had To Say:
I loved this book! As a memoir, I really connected with this book. Judith takes us through the stages of her life and her personal and professional struggles, achievements and setbacks. Much of reading this book for me was like listening to a good friend. I felt that while she clearly discussed difficulties in terms of her relationship (or lack there of) with her mother, she used it as an opportunity to make different choices in her life. Connecting the stages of her life with favorite recipes took the book to a whole new level for me. I clearly have certain foods/recipes that connect me to different places/times of my life and I thought this added a great dimension to the book. Now that I have read and savored the book, I am looking forward to cooking my way through the recipes.
I won this book in a giveaway from Goodreads, but that has not influenced my thoughts on the book or this review. I highly recommend this book. I think it would make a great gift as well.
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From the very first chapter of Tasting Home I was hooked.
Author Judith Newton has taken two of my favorite loves: food and family and put them together in a way that tells not just her story but that of so many of us. Who could deny that certain dishes that we might consider “comfort food” brings to mind a person or event that still lingers with us. In her book TASTING HOME Judith shares how early in life her view of cooking was shaped by her mother and what it actually meant to be an adult. It was through food that some of the most powerful conversations and connections were made—and it was also a reminder that no matter how much you might savor something it might not last.
This was true with Judith as she watched the man who was her heart pass away from her, and realizing how helpless she felt in dealing with it and what were perceived as her own shortcomings.
In one powerful scene that shared their story she wrote this: “I’d married a man who thought he might be gay,” but I was the one with the sexual problem. Bewildered and anxious about our marriage and myself, I poured my love for Dick into my Italian cooking, the Italian cure redone. Instead of sex and romance, I dished up plates of what Keats had called the “warm” and sensuous “South”.
Food became more than just a conversation piece. Throughout Judith’s life it was sometimes a conversation starter, opening the door for friendships to be made, trust to be established and even a meeting of the minds.
Through each year you are able to see not only the evolution of the woman she has now become but the role that the kitchen played in the process.
Definitely a book that will speak to your heart as well as your taste buds, TASTING HOME proves to be real food for your soul.
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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.
by Trilla Pando
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
— Edeliz Bering (@DhaleBering16) November 21, 2015