The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of The Tenth Muse, by Judith Jones

One of my college history professors — a man — once said that too much of what passes for history is the history of wars. Being a wise and thoughtful man, he gave us novels and memoirs written during the timeframe we were studying. It’s his line of thinking that I carry over when tagging this memoir as “history.” If we look at American culture over the last 60 years, we have been going through an almost constant state of revolution in our attitudes towards food. If Julia Child was the Jefferson (or Karl Marx) of that revolution, Judith Jones was the Washington (or Lenin). Both made a huge and enduring impact on the way we cook, thereby having a huge economic impact on the restaurant business, grocery stores, agriculture, the import/export sector, publishing, and other elements of our world. Will they be included in traditional history books? No. And that’s an oversight, and a problem with the way we perceive history. So, with my little rant behind me, let’s move on to the book review of The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food, which is Judith Jones’ autobiography.

I loved it, but I think that was inevitable. I already gave her recent cookbook, Cooking for One, a rave review. With the Tenth Muse, Jones, who turns 86 this year, begins by telling about her normal childhood in a home that served the bland pre-WWII  food that was typical of the American diet at that time. It was life in post-WWII Paris that liberated Jones. She threw herself into cooking, met the man who would become her husband, and came back to the U.S. desperately in need of a cookbook that didn’t yet exist — the cookbook that Julia Child was just starting to write. After fighting to get Mastering the Art of French Cooking published, Jones went on to shepherd through any number of now-famous cookbook authors, like Edna Lewis, Lidia Bastianach, Madhur Jaffrey, and many others.

Jones includes about 50 of her favorite recipes at the back of the book, but really, you read this for her engaging storytelling ability and her light and direct writing style. I strongly recommend this book.

As for animal lovers who don’t want to read about bad things happening to animals, this book is MOSTLY SAFE. If you are really squeamish at the merest mention of something bad happening to an animal, you won’t like this book. That seems to be typical of memoirs by food-oriented people, by the way. They always recount something a bit squicky. Towards the end of the book, Jones mentions in passing that she has always owned a dog, and she names several in the course of her story, but these pets aren’t really much of a presence in the book. And there’s the infamous beaver incident, which is noted but not shown. But overall, I think animal lovers should be able to read this excellent memoir for what it is. Enjoy!

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March 4, 2010 - Posted by | autobiography, beach book, biography, Book Reviews, dogs, food, history, nonfiction, pets, recipes | , , ,

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