Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food

Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food

From her Italian American childhood through singlehood, raising and feeding a growing family, divorce, and a new marriage to food writer Michael Ruhlman, Ann Hood has long appreciated the power of a good meal. Growing up, she tasted love in her grandmother’s tomato sauce and dreamed of her mother’s special-occasion Fancy Lady Sandwiches. Later, the kitchen became the heart...

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Title:Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food
Author:Ann Hood
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Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food Reviews

  • Toni

    Yummy Cozy 4.5 rounded up to 5 Stars

    Update: Ann Hood fans: This book just published Dec. 4, 2018. Great read for winter!

    Kitchen Yarns is a casual memoir with food. Ann Hood recounts her life through its phases of learning to cook and relationships connected to those times. It’s chatty and fun, as if you and she were sitting in her family room in two big cozy chairs, each with a glass of wine, something delicious to munch on and sharing stories of your lives.

    She starts out describing her Italian

    Yummy Cozy 4.5 rounded up to 5 Stars

    Update: Ann Hood fans: This book just published Dec. 4, 2018. Great read for winter!

    Kitchen Yarns is a casual memoir with food. Ann Hood recounts her life through its phases of learning to cook and relationships connected to those times. It’s chatty and fun, as if you and she were sitting in her family room in two big cozy chairs, each with a glass of wine, something delicious to munch on and sharing stories of your lives.

    She starts out describing her Italian Grandma Rose, constantly cooking heavenly, fresh meals, but never once letting Ann or the other kids into her tiny kitchen. The result, Ann never learned to cook any of these meals! (I on the hand, watched and learned everything my mother made; but did not become a writer or a chef.) Ann moves on to college trying out a few meals to impress a few boys. After college she lands a job as a flight attendant for TWA (remember them?!), flies everywhere and shares an apartment in Boston with five roommates. No one cooks anything, ever.

    Eventually she has her first serious relationship and decides to follow a recipe, changing one key ingredient. What follows is a disastrous pesto meal for an understanding boyfriend. (Great story.) She moves on, thankfully, to the memorable, “Silver Palate” cookbook, super popular in the 1980’s. Of course, Ann marries, has two children who stand on stools and cook with her almost every day.

    Here is where our walk “down the yellow-brick road” ends. At five years old, her daughter, Grace dies suddenly, from a severe case of strep throat. (yes, they did everything.) Life is not the same for a long time. I’ve read most of Ann’s books, but this is the first time she can really talk about the pain and grief she went through losing a child. She worked through it, as mothers do, with seven-year-old Tommy, still at home to raise.

    The family was living in an old, restored, Victorian house in Providence, RI, not far from Ann’s hometown. She talks a lot about her neighborhood. Before that marriage ended, they adopted one-year-old, Annabelle from China, which brought new challenges and new joy to the family.

    Currently, Annabelle is fourteen years old living with the happily remarried Ann and her “sweetie” (her word), writer and chef, Michael Ruelman. Ann’s book is sprinkled with humor and many of her favorite recipes.

    Look for Ann’s book Dec. 4, 2018 and wish her a Happy Birthday on Dec 9th!

    Thank you NetGalley, W.W. Norton, and Ann Hood

  • Larry H

    Like music, food often has such an indelible role in our memories. Many of us can remember where and when (and in some cases, with whom) we first tried certain foods, and some of us can even remember the meals or dishes we'd consider best-ever (or even worst-ever). Some turn to food for comfort, for celebration, for companionship, while some even have a complicated relationship with food. But no matter what, we can't deny the place food ha

    Like music, food often has such an indelible role in our memories. Many of us can remember where and when (and in some cases, with whom) we first tried certain foods, and some of us can even remember the meals or dishes we'd consider best-ever (or even worst-ever). Some turn to food for comfort, for celebration, for companionship, while some even have a complicated relationship with food. But no matter what, we can't deny the place food has in our lives beyond simple nourishment.

    In her new book,

    , Ann Hood reflects upon the connection between certain dishes and specific memories or times in her life. There are the pleasant memories of family, her first job as a flight attendant for TWA, dishes associated with her children. Then there are those dishes which remind her of times she was struggling, with grief, loneliness, despair, anger. And then there are the nostalgic recipes, which came from cookbooks that are heavily stained or have fallen apart through years of use. Each essay marks a particular time or memory, and each is accompanied by at least one recipe.

    "When I write an essay about food, I am really uncovering something deeper in my life—loss, family, confusion, growing up, growing away from what I knew, returning, grief, joy, and, yes, love."

    There's the never-fail Chicken Marbella recipe from

    , which only failed her one time, when she was falling in love. There are the potato recipes enjoyed by two of her children, and the baked potato recipe from her new husband, the one which made her actually enjoy baked potatoes. Whether it's the blueberry muffins which remind her of the department store where she worked as a teenage model, or the various dishes her Italian grandmother and her mother afterward filled the days and nights of her childhood with, this book captures the warmth, the feeling of connection cooking brings. You know, this is why everyone winds up in the kitchen during a dinner party!

    This book hit so many special notes for me. I love to cook and love to read recipes, but despite my struggles with liking food far too much (especially those dastardly carbohydrates), food has such a special place in my memories. I remember the dishes taught to me by my mother and grandmothers, those I learned in culinary school, those I tried to recreate after being wowed by a certain dish in a restaurant, and the foods I turned to during difficult times. There's a reason that when families in the Jewish religion mourn so much food is served—food truly can bring comfort, albeit temporary, as well as fellowship.

    "That even in grief, we must take tentative steps back into the world. That even in grief, we must eat. And that when we share that food with others, we are reclaiming those broken bits of our lives, holding them out as if to say,

    As if with each bite, we remember how it is to live."

    I have been a big fan of Hood's storytelling (I loved

    and

    ), but her writing in this book just dazzled me. I could see the ripe tomatoes in the tomato pies, taste the richness of the cassoulet, hear the crunch of her father's Indiana fried chicken. Needless to say, my stomach growled the entire day as I read this, and I cannot wait to try so many of the recipes she included in the book.

    will whet your appetite and wet your eyes from time to time. I think this is the perfect book to give as a gift to those with whom you've shared recipes, meals, and memories related to food.

    See all of my reviews at

    .

  • Diane S ☔

    3.5 As with music, I'm sure many of can remember when a particular song was played, food and meals can bring about the same type of memories. Favorite foods from our childhood, comfort food we still crave to this day, maybe even struggling to learn how to cook. Ann takes us through her life, associating food with her different memories. What a fantastic way to get to know a person, an author, up close and personal.

    She takes us through her young years, growing up in an Itslian family, always a po

    3.5 As with music, I'm sure many of can remember when a particular song was played, food and meals can bring about the same type of memories. Favorite foods from our childhood, comfort food we still crave to this day, maybe even struggling to learn how to cook. Ann takes us through her life, associating food with her different memories. What a fantastic way to get to know a person, an author, up close and personal.

    She takes us through her young years, growing up in an Itslian family, always a pot of red sauce, called gravy, simmering on the stove. Dinner parties her mother hosted, dinner parties she later threw on her own. Learning to cook, her favorite, simple fried chicken recipe, her marriage, children, her divorce and later her second marriage, all associated with different foods, meals. Just a wonderful book, simply written, reminding me of all the meals I can remember, failures and successes to do with food and cooking. Recipes are included, and I'm so darn suggestible I went and ordered the cookbook she mentions more than once, from Amazon.

    ARC from Edelweiss.

  • Les

    Actual rating: 4.5/5

    I loved everything about this highly readable collection of culinary essays by Ann Hood! I have so many Post-It flags marking recipes that I'd like to try that I've decided I need to own a copy of this book. Here's a sample of some of the recipes that have piqued my interested:

    Indiana Fried Chicken

    Glamourous Curried Chicken Salad

    Chicken Salad Veronique

    Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins

    My Perfect Spaghetti Carbonara

    Michael's Whiskey Sours

    French Scrambled Eggs

    Never-Fail Souffle (re

    Actual rating: 4.5/5

    I loved everything about this highly readable collection of culinary essays by Ann Hood! I have so many Post-It flags marking recipes that I'd like to try that I've decided I need to own a copy of this book. Here's a sample of some of the recipes that have piqued my interested:

    Indiana Fried Chicken

    Glamourous Curried Chicken Salad

    Chicken Salad Veronique

    Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins

    My Perfect Spaghetti Carbonara

    Michael's Whiskey Sours

    French Scrambled Eggs

    Never-Fail Souffle (really more of a strata)

    Sam's Potatoes

    Mary's Peach Pie

    Jill's Tenderloin and Roasted Tomatoes

    Gogo's Swedish Meatballs with Ikea Gravy

    My Roast Chicken

    Michael's Overnight Chicken Stock

    Tortellini en Brodo

    Perfect Grilled Cheese

    Laurie Colwin's Tomato Pie

    This list is mainly for my future reference, but it gives you an idea of the broad variety of recipes Hood includes in her memoir. Granted, most of the recipes are not exactly on a clean-eating menu, but we're all allowed to indulge once in awhile, right? Moderation in all things!

    I remember doing the same with my first cookbook,

    , which I wrote about here.

    A few favorite passages:

    and

    I love Hood's writing and conversational tone, which brought a tear to my eye as often as it made me laugh out loud. Her final essay about Laurie Colwin's Tomato Pie had my eyes brimming with tears and I hugged the book to my chest as I read the final page.

    is as delightful as Laurie Colwin's culinary memoir,

    which I loved, and they both belong on my keeper shelf for future readings.

  • JoAnn

    Reminiscent of Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking, I enjoyed this almost as much as Hood's earlier memoir, Morningstar: Growing Up With Books.

  • Julie  Durnell

    A delightful book of essays, ruminations, and recipes! She is very similar to Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking, which I enjoyed just as much.

  • Joan

    In Ann Hood, I can recognize a bit of myself as we are of an age, lived much of our single young adult lives in the somewhat seedy New York of the 80s, and of course, love to cook.

    I can't say we necessarily like to eat the same foods – she loves pork, and I never touch it. I love fish, and she hates it. We both have a great respect for the food of our immigrant families, hers Italian, mine Jewish, and the childhood influence of our respective food cultures remains strong in us in our current dec

    In Ann Hood, I can recognize a bit of myself as we are of an age, lived much of our single young adult lives in the somewhat seedy New York of the 80s, and of course, love to cook.

    I can't say we necessarily like to eat the same foods – she loves pork, and I never touch it. I love fish, and she hates it. We both have a great respect for the food of our immigrant families, hers Italian, mine Jewish, and the childhood influence of our respective food cultures remains strong in us in our current decade.

    I read along, identifying with some of her experiences, noting to keep (and rejecting others) some of her recipes. But when I came to the last section of the book, she had me in tears as she related her love of the author Laurie Colwin's famous tomato pie, and of attending one of Colwin's readings in Manhattan. How I could have missed the reading myself, I have no idea, and I am regretful to learn this decades later. I adored (there's no other word for it) Colwin's novels, stories and food writing, and was devastated by her death, at age 48, in 1992.

    And so, because I enjoyed the book, and especially because of Hood's Colwin anecdote, I must give this memoir four stars.

  • Diane Barnes

    Perfect light reading for a busy time. Essays on the importance of food, family and friends. With recipes, none of which are fancy or complicated. I intend to try the tomato pie very soon.

  • Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    In the postpartum haze after my daughter was born when I began to pick up books again between diaper changes and during nursing sessions, I found a book called

    .  Though all I wanted to do was sleep and eat uninterrupted, I couldn't put the book down and chose to read in those few minutes I had to myself.  I made a mental note of the author so I could look for more of her books.

    When Ann Hood's food memoir

     recently appeared on NetGalley, I couldn't click the reque

    In the postpartum haze after my daughter was born when I began to pick up books again between diaper changes and during nursing sessions, I found a book called

    .  Though all I wanted to do was sleep and eat uninterrupted, I couldn't put the book down and chose to read in those few minutes I had to myself.  I made a mental note of the author so I could look for more of her books.

    When Ann Hood's food memoir

     recently appeared on NetGalley, I couldn't click the request button fast enough.  I love a good food memoir and was thrilled to have the opportunity to read more of Hood's work.

    Growing up in an Italian American family, Ann Hood remembers her grandmother's tiny kitchen and how there was always something simmering, usually a tomato sauce that they called gravy; an all purpose sauce to smother bread in for an after school snack or to cover pasta.

    Her dad's military career meant moving often, which was especially hard on her mother who was raised in a close-knit family.  Hood has many fond memories centering around food with her family, from her dad's simple fried chicken to her mom's fancy sandwiches for PTA meetings and elaborate school lunches.

    Each essay is full of nostalgia and accompanied by comforting recipes that represent a certain time period in her life.  She isn't ashamed to admit she loves American cheese because it reminds her of her dad (a cook who didn't realize he couldn't cook well), and she recounts the history of her fail proof dinner party dish Chicken Marbella and how it factored in to her adult life and marriage.

    Suffering multiple tragedies over the course of her life from the sudden and unexpected deaths of her aunt, brother, and then her five year old daughter, Ann Hood uses food and memory as catharsis.

    With charming descriptions, funny observations, and heartbreaking honesty,

    chronicles a life of family, home, love, and loss and its one constant comfort:  food.

    Thanks to W.W. Norton Company and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  

    is scheduled for release on December 4, 2018.

    For more full reviews, visit

  • Kate ☀️ Olson

    Truly, this was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and it took me FOREVER to get my hands on it because my library system only ordered a physical copy in Large Print (NO GO for me) and I had to wait for the digital copy to be available.

    .

    And......well.....let’s just say that I really loved the individual essays. But. Well. Most of them were previously published in other publications and rather than heavily editing to eliminate redundancies, they just.....plopped them all in a book. So,

    Truly, this was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and it took me FOREVER to get my hands on it because my library system only ordered a physical copy in Large Print (NO GO for me) and I had to wait for the digital copy to be available.

    .

    And......well.....let’s just say that I really loved the individual essays. But. Well. Most of them were previously published in other publications and rather than heavily editing to eliminate redundancies, they just.....plopped them all in a book. So, for beautiful food writing, it’s great. For a book to sit down and read straight through like I did? Just okay.

    .

    Overall I’ll give this 3 ⭐️, and recommend it to people who love to read about food and want to just dip in and out. I anticipated more of a memoir, and it’s actually a cookbook with essays 😊

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