Kate Christensen: Blue Plate Special



With a startling scene Kate recalls a memory of her early childhood She was living with her mother father and ounger sister in Berkeley California She remembered a breakfast scene from her family s kitchen The memory started out uite beautifully Kate described the soft boiled eggs and the perfect triangles of toast which her mother enjoyed preparing for her family s breakfast I could picture the sunny early morning kitchen parents and two Bad Pets young daughters seated around the table Her father whom we come to learn can be charming but can uickly become unpredictable and volatile was preparing to leave for work Her mother who was exhausted and overwhelmed from caring for twooung children begged him to stay and help her for a little while Shockingly and beginning a pattern which would repeat over and over in the ensuing Running Your Best years her father turned toward her mother and began assaulting her punching her over and over in her abdomen and breasts This violent outburst ended as uickly as it began and he left the family home that morning with three stunned white faced people in his wake In thinking about that horrible scene I believe this event would set up a pattern for his oldest daughter Kate which she would struggle with for much of her life Eventually after giving birth to a third daughter and experiencing additional beatings Kate s mother divorced her father and she took her daughters to live in Tempe Arizona where she enrolled in school for a post doc in psychology I couldn t help but wonder at this point how many people study psychology simply to attempt to make sense of their own ruined lives or the dysfunctional lives of their families Regardless Kate her mother and her sisters attempted to settle in Arizona but not only did they experience a kind of culture shock as Arizona was uite different from Berkeley but their lifestyles were also changed her father sent minimal child support for a time but they sometimes struggled with having enough to eat It seemed to me that Kate s mother was providing for her daughters as best she could preparing meals she called old fashioned homemade and cheap what she referred to throughout her daughters growing upears as her blue plate specials It seems that the early The Fall Of White City (Victorian Chicago Mystery Series Book 1) years of instability and chaos set up a pattern in Kate s life one that she didn t begin to even recognize until she was much older Kate wrote about herears as a Please Dont Tickle The Tiger young adult her collegeears and her desire to write novels at which she began to enjoy a level of success an invitation to attend the Iowa Writer s Workshop a string of uninspired relationships with men promiscuous behavior and than a flirtation with excessive binge drinking She described in these pages a life which like her childhood home was full of chaos and self created drama And through all of her experiences she wrote about food and hunger and what she considered to be her voracious appetite and that may be the truth as she saw it but all I could think of was that she seemed to be describing a battle with a serious eating disorder periods of gorging on food comforting herself with each morsel she placed in her mouth followed by periods of starving herself and self denial of that comfort she craved Kate ended up marrying a man who had a successful career and seemed determined to make her happy But it came as no real surprise to me when she described how it all fell apart one day I honestly can t figure out just WHY the marriage failed it just felt inevitable Sure she wrote about her frantically ticking biological clock and then discovering that her husband didn t ever want children I was baffled by that admission as it seems a topic that a couple would definitely discuss BEFORE the marriage takes place But at that time she decided that although she was heartbroken that she would never have a child she wanted to stay in the marriage until one day she didn t Kate Christensen finished her memoir on what I assume she meant to be a positive note admitting that mistakes were made but lessons were learned We leave her at the dawn of a new relationship in her life She met a much MTIV younger man whom she thinks of as her soul mate whatever that means and they are sharing an old farm house in rural Maine She assures us that she finally has her life where she wants it to be with a man she is comfortable with and living the uite life she has always longed for I wish I could say that upon closing this book I had the positive feelings she had Clearly it is HER life and not my concern or my business however she DID write the book for the world to read right I could never shake the feeling that perhaps Kate was simply SAYING all the right things the things she knew would be expected of someone who had learned from her mistakes and was on course to turn her life in a different direction I had the feeling that she had either undergone many hours of psychotherapy or had read stacks of self help books She definitely seemed acuainted with the pop psychology jargon But I still have a niggling doubt in my mind She HAD absolutely identified her self destructive life choices and patterns I just wasn t convinced that anything in her life had truly changed Hopefully I m wrong Sometimes a book arrives inour hands like a cosmic gift Blue Plate Special was that gift for meI ve been a fan of Kate Christensen s writing for ears Epicure s Lament is my favorite which I m now eager to go back and re read and this memoir draws back the curtain on the author s own life and the real inspiration for some of the stories and characters that populate her novelsBut than that I loved this book because I feel a great kinship to Kate Christensen This is a woman who has uprooted herself umpteen times who considered herself a late bloomer who has felt full on the pangs of loneliness alongside the exuisite pleasure of solitude who has found joys and solace in food in place in observation and in self reflection In so many ways I feel that I am putting my feet right into the steps of this woman who has gone before me and somehow reading this book made my uncertain zigzaggy path seem a bit saferA book that blends the raw emotional honesty of something like The Glass Castle with the food centric storytelling of Blood Bones Butter. Dience for this book that is already primed That it is written by Kate Christensen means it will be a delicious reading experience in every sense a compulsively readable account of a knockabout life full of sorrows and pleasures many of the latter of the sensual appetitive variet.

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In her uest to appease her appetitesIn the end I lost patience with the author whose contradictions bothered me I have always felt loneliest in the presence of other people she writes For me loneliness comes from a sense of missing something I never miss anything when I m alone That s a lovely sentiment but the author just doesn t live it She seems incapable of being alone or remaining happy For her contentment never seems to last It s those appetites again The main problem with this book I don t understand its purpose Why does a 40 somthing author of average note need to write an autobiography To be fair I have not read any of Christensen s novels so maybe her fans were clamoring to know about her as a person This book was suggested to me probably because of the subtitle An Autobiography of My Appetites and I generally like reading foodie books However I think to call this a foodie memoir is a stretch She does talk about food some but mostly the book is about her bizarre upbringing and what seems to me as lack of maturity well into her 30s If it weren t true I almost wouldn t believe it It s all here abusive spouses poverty religious cults child molestation anorexia bing eating sex addition undocumented work status mental breakdowns etc I only finished it because I was curious about what crisis would come next The last chapter deal My first run in with Kate s work was back in 2008 when my innocent twenty seven ear old self finally got to learn a thing or two about wine from reading The Great Man I passed the simple Laurus yet creative cover at a bookstore and then traced back took a peak and decided to read it I was mesmerized by the language the wording and the complex imagination and the cover that stopped me was of a simple paint brush I do art and design for a living so it called me with its elegant simplicity Perhaps the most important of all I walked away with a curiosity of what a Sancerre which was drank in the book under grape wines on a hot day in the garden during a very special scene I wondered how it really tasted in comparison to a fruity dry Pinot Grigio which I would normally think as sophisticated I have always loved food and I have always loved books but this was the first time I have witnessed characters in a book eat and drink and I really do mean eat They sank their teeth into mouthwatering meals of chicken and salad luscious eggy pasta fennel wine canap s with oozing cheese olives golden spicy oil dripping off charred sourdough slices while two people debated their future together fought cried or grieved Asears passed and I read of her work I noticed that in all her novels the characters and plots intertwined with brilliant literary intensity but food always made its way around and it sparked a hunger in me that no other writing has ever done I was not aware of MF K Fisher and others until I started reading Kate s work I have read almost all of her novels and this memoir while being non fiction has an echo of the creator the great engineer of those novels Suddenly I could see reflections of her struggles her own life and ideas in the books With Blue Plate Special finally after all this time I had an extra sense of appreciation of what went into making them and I got a glimpse of the engineer herself I find it ironic that so many people out there are outraged at this book perhaps they were expecting a cookbook and not a memoir from someone who can handle fiction so well I was stunned to read about what the author was going through while writing my favorite book which is The Epicure s Lament I had no idea that half way through creating it her world collapsed and she was unable to write that cutoff was never evident in a story that I still love all these ears later a story that ties food and love life passion the daily struggle and philosophy peppered with wit and pleasures which should never be guilty In The Blue Plate Special the author holds back very little as she narrates her incredible childhood and uite an adventurous life that took her to other continents and finally her place in the world today She writes freely and openly only Christensen would mention that champagne tastes like an apple cut with a steel knife and how she had to eat what the character was eating as she read from an early age she knows what makes for great reading and this is no exception Her life on a plate comforts and the cleanups the whole meal is here and I feel humbled and appreciative that I got to get a glimpse into the private world of a great mind The behind the scenes on her life and what was going on as she was working on novels that are now some of my favorite reads is priceless And the non recipe recipe for cheese and bean burritos on page 227 isn t too bad either I could get addicted to it PThey say that the best food is honest cooking well this personal non fictional memoir is as honest as it gets so bon app tit Kasia S I love memoirs and I especially love memoirs which are in some way centered around food I enjoy memoirs so much I suppose because they allow me to slip inside another person s life for just a little while and every now and then I am able to find some commonality between the person t life and my own I have been especially drawn to memoirs which involve food because food preparing and presenting food is the best way I know to demonstrate my love for the people in my life Preparing a wholesome delicious meal is nurturing and in my heart I m a nurturer I was drawn to Blue Plate Special An Autobiography of My Appetites by Kate Christensen because it promised to be a life story I could relate to Kate Christensen is an author of mainly fictional books and I have read only one of those novels Trouble and although I found her to be a good writer I couldn t really connect with the story And unfortunately despite the promise made inside the jacket of this book I found I couldn t really connect with her on a personal level either It s difficult for me to rate the memoirs I read How can I possibly assign a particular number of stars to someone s telling of their life story judging it as I m rating a restaurant or hotel I can only present the impressions I was left with when reading about Kate Christensen s lifeThis book began. 's Blood Bones and Butter as well as admirers of M F K Fisher and Laurie Colwin will be a large and eager audienceThis memoir derives from Kate's popular foodcentric blog in which she shares scenes from an unusual upbringing and an unusually happy present day life providing an au.

I didn t completely hate this but there were three problems for me In no particular order 1 Though Christensen s novels are creative and witty and have a distinctive voice the writing in this book was only functional Sentence level uninteresting too As if writing about herself led her to over edit and deplete her own style Even though she covers a lot of material the writing is formulaic like litanies of what happened each ear But that s too many incidents crammed in as if she s trying to write an autobiography not a memoir 2 The self absorption without looking out into the wider world For what it s worth if one wants to compare it to other recent popular memoirs by female authors who also write fiction Che Blue Plate Special isn t really a food memoir Sure it s got food in it and even some recipes But looking back at it two months after finishing what I really remember is Kate Christensen s courageous portrayal of her struggles to become a writer and a fully functioning adult She s elouent and honest and the book is as good at places as it is at food With its vivid descriptions of the various towns and cities where she s lived Blue Plate Special could have been a travel memoir just as easily as a food memoir Either way it was immensely satisfying for the likes of me I m looking forward to her follow up memoir How to Cook a Moose although it seems like that one really is about food I was having a hard time settling for anything I picked up until this book My advice Get it as soon as possible I m not braggin People but my copy is an ARC Okay I AM bragging I LOVED it I made a list of her already published books that I must have Blue Plate Special is Christensen s memoir encompassing her early life on to her college and adult life with all her uirky family and her uirkier decisions Not average in any way The liet motif throughout is her enjoyment her adoration of food and the part it has played in sustaining her Christensen has been extremely courageous throughout and very forthcoming in her most intimate story Growing up out west coming east to school working as an au pair in Europe then traveling there with her friends and lovers and moving to New York for work and marriage Her determination in any endeavor is stunning simply unwilling to be defeated Always with the backdrop of food and family I became so immersed that it was hard to step out of her life when I turned the last page Library Overdrive Audiobooknarrated by Tavia Gilbertmy first book by the author Kate Christensen This book was a great discovery I literally found it by accident I started listening with zero expectations Kate s passions are eating cooking readingand writing These passions are interwoven into the bigger story that Kate shares about her LIFE I enjoyed her stories happy sad about her family life happy SadThe different places she lived happy Sad steps she took towards becoming a writer happy There are Het Reservaat Van Ward Ruyslinck yummy food descriptions and recipes WHAT I LOVED BEST WASKate s honest vulnerability about herself and the relationships that had a profound impact on her positively and negatively Happy andou guessed it sad I look forward to reading books by a Kate Christensen I like her writing it s intimate Writing uality 5 stars That s the easy partThe hard part is basically thus You can t really review this sort of navel gazing memoire without basically rating someone s life and that s just plain uncomfortable at least to me I can now definitely assert that I much enjoy memoires when they involve an historically significant event or period or are put in a larger context of some greater social or historical upheaval See for example Madeline Albright s memoires This memoire of the navel gazing variety is interesting enough and there are some historical social aspects that give it a larger context eg Berkeley circa 1970 but often the interesting bits are interesting in the way that rubber necking a bad car accident is interesting In essence the author pulled out what must have been her 100 s of journals going back to when she could first write and then wrote a memoire based on the journals As such we reel from one I did this shitty thing to I did this other shitty thing and from this shitty thing was inflicted upon me to that shitty thing also happened to me Enough 1 star for this partAnd so I averaged 3 stars This memoir about author Kate Christensen s life is a compulsively readable account of a truly odd upbringing and an itinerant and extended Rumunia. Koniec złotej epoki young adulthood The author frames the circumstances of her life around three dominant themes food and sex and to a lesser extent writing Her ravenous hunger for each makes the subtitle of this book An Autobiography of My Appetites than aptThe first part of the book dealing with her early life as the child of hippie parents was fascinating though at the same time disturbing I had a lot of sympathy for theoung Kate Christensen I wish parents would realize how profoundly their self centeredness affects their children for lifeMy interest in the author s descriptions of food lasted for the entire book but I must say I uickly lost interest in her adult life soaked as it is in alcohol and lust As the book progresses the author morphs into a person I didn t particularly like She estranges herself from her mother and her sister and writes prettily about it Susan and I had some minor sisterly spat one day over a lunch of pierogis and borscht at a Polish place on Second Avenue The spat turns into ears of estrangement to the point that they pass each other on the street without acknowledging each other It isn t until her mother becomes gravely ill that they all patch things upI suspect alcohol had a lot to do with her difficult life and fractious relationships as it does for so many writers I drank excessively out of my chronic and ongoing sense of self loathing to escape myself to flee the annoying chirpiness of my too clear too verbal brain so recently educated so freshly imbued with the powers of literary analysis and writerly dogma she writes Yet her rationalizing fell flat for me She follows that statement with this one I realized I had no control over anything at all even my own fate Not true She could have had control she gave it up. That the greatly admired novelist Kate Christensen has turned to the memoir form after six novels makes this book an event Readers of memoirs of high literary uality particularly those with food themes most conspicuously Ruth Reichl's Comfort Me with Apples and Gabrielle Hamilton.

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KATE CHRISTENSEN is the author of six previous novels most recently The Astral The Great Man won the 2008 PENFaulkner Award She has published reviews and essays in numerous publications most recently the New York Times Book Review Bookforum O Elle and Gilt Taste She writes an occasional drinks column for The Wall Street Journal called With a Twist She lives in Portland Maine