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Blue Plate Special

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Blue Plate Special

An Autobiography of My Appetites
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From acclaimed novelist Kate Christensen, Blue Plate Special is a mouthwatering literary memoir about an unusual upbringing and the long, winding path to happiness."To taste fully is to live fully."...
From acclaimed novelist Kate Christensen, Blue Plate Special is a mouthwatering literary memoir about an unusual upbringing and the long, winding path to happiness."To taste fully is to live fully."...
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Description-
  • From acclaimed novelist Kate Christensen, Blue Plate Special is a mouthwatering literary memoir about an unusual upbringing and the long, winding path to happiness.

    "To taste fully is to live fully." For Kate Christensen, food and eating have always been powerful connectors to self and world--"a subterranean conduit to sensuality, memory, desire." Her appetites run deep; in her own words, she spent much of her life as "a hungry, lonely, wild animal looking for happiness and stability." Now, having found them at last, in this passionate feast of a memoir she reflects upon her journey of innocence lost and wisdom gained, mistakes made and lessons learned, and hearts broken and mended.
    In the tradition of M. F. K. Fisher, Laurie Colwin, and Ruth Reichl, Blue Plate Special is a narrative in which food--eating it, cooking it, reflecting on it--becomes the vehicle for unpacking a life. Christensen explores her history of hunger--not just for food but for love and confidence and a sense of belonging--with a profound honesty, starting with her unorthodox childhood in 1960s Berkeley as the daughter of a mercurial legal activist who ruled the house with his fists. After a whirlwind adolescent awakening, Christensen strikes out to chart her own destiny within the literary world and the world of men, both equally alluring and dangerous. Food of all kinds, from Ho Hos to haute cuisine, remains an evocative constant throughout, not just as sustenance but as a realm of experience unto itself, always reflective of what is going on in her life. She unearths memories--sometimes joyful, sometimes painful--of the love between mother and daughter, sister and sister, and husband and wife, and of the times when the bonds of love were broken. Food sustains her as she endures the pain of these ruptures and fuels her determination not to settle for anything less than the love and contentment for which she's always yearned.
    The physical and emotional sensuality that defines Christensen's fiction resonates throughout the pages of Blue Plate Special. A vibrant celebration of life in all its truth and complexity, this book is about embracing the world through the transformative power of food: it's about listening to your appetites, about having faith, and about learning what is worth holding on to and what is not.

Excerpts-
  • From the book

    Excerpted from the Hardcover EditionChapter 1

    Breakfast at McGee

    When I was a kid, on what passed for chilly mornings in Berkeley, my mother used to make my sisters and me soft-boiled eggs with pieces of buttered toast broken into them. We had eggcups, but we never used them. These soft-boiled eggs were so good, we'd lick the bowls clean.

    One such morning, when I was about two years old, my parents sat at the breakfast table with my baby sister, Susan, and me. The table was littered with cups and plates and bowls, eggshells and toast crumbs. The sun shone in the windows of the kitchen in our small bungalow on McGee Avenue in Berkeley. My father was about to walk out the front door to go somewhere, work probably.

    My mother said in a high, plaintive voice, "Please stay and help me, Ralph. I just need some help. Don't leave yet."

    My father paused in the kitchen doorway, looking back at us all at the table. Something seemed to snap in his head. Instead of either walking out or staying to help my mother, he leaped at her and began punching her in a silent knot of rage. It went on for a while. He slammed his fist into her chest and stomach. He pulled her hair. He seemed to want to hurt her badly. She gasped with shock and tried to stop him, but he was much stronger than she was. Then he let her go abruptly and slammed out the door and left us there, the three of us. My baby sister was wailing. My mother picked her up out of her high chair and held her, weeping slow, silent tears, rocking back and forth. I remember being paralyzed with an inward, panicky terror, but I didn't cry, I'm sure of it. I just stared at the table, at the eggshells and toast crumbs, and then I looked at my mother.

    There we sat, a young family around a breakfast table on a sunny morning, surrounded by the shells of soft-boiled eggs, such a cozy and nourishing breakfast. The air jangled with the wrongness of what had just happened, vibrated with the disjunction between this sweet scene, mother and children, and the terrible thing my father had just done.

    There were many later violent incidents like this one, according to my mother, but that is the only one from those early years that has stayed near the surface of my memory. Maybe this was the first time it happened, the first time my father beat up my mother in front of me. Maybe I had learned by the next time to shield myself by blinding myself, by blocking my memory.

    Whatever the case may be, this particular wrecked breakfast is imprinted on my soul like a big boot mark. It became a kind of primordial scene, the incident around which my lifelong fundamental identity and understanding of the dynamic between women and men was shaped, whether I liked it or not.

    In that moment, as a helpless child, I had two choices of people to identify with. In that moment, I split in half. As part of me stared at the eggshells, the toast crumbs, the empty, yolk-streaked bowls, that other part allied itself with my father, the person with the strength and force and power.

    And so, from then on, I denied that part of me that was female. I tried to be like some idealized version of a guy: tough, impermeable, ambitious, sexually aggressive, and intolerant of weakness and vulnerability, in myself and everyone else.

    My self-protective urge to be masculine, remove myself from all things female--myself, my mother, my baby sister--let me get through my childhood and early adulthood believing, because I told myself so, that I was unaffected and unscathed by any of it. My father didn't hit me. He hit my mother. She was the one who was hurt. I was okay....

About the Author-
  • KATE CHRISTENSEN is the author of six previous novels, most recently The Astral. The Great Man won the 2008 PEN/Faulkner 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." Her blog can be accessed at: http://katechristensen.wordpress.com


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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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An Autobiography of My Appetites
Kate Christensen
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