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Eating My Words: An Appetite for Life Hardcover – May 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006050109X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060501099
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,475,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
A Sharp, Short and Witty Delight 16 July 2004
By Bill Marsano - Published on
Format: Hardcover
By Bill Marsano. Years ago, in the slim hope of making myself useful on a certain magazine, I often volunteered to edit Mimi Sheraton's column. She was counted a tough cookie by the other editors, who preferred saps. My stock did in fact rise through self-sacrifice, and so did my free time, for the fact was her column was a breeze.
Of course, if an editor mucked around with her copy (and that, I can say without exposing any trade secrets, is what editors generally do), then it wasn't a breeze. So after reading her tight-knit prose, her well-reasoned judgments, her lucid thoughts, I'd call her about a couple of minor points and we'd agree on changing or not in about ten minutes. Then, with my door shut and no one in any case daring to approach Sheraton Control, I had the afternoon free. (Later, when other editors asked how it had gone, I just rolled my eyes.)
Keys to Sheraton's style were sticking to the subject and not showing off. Her judgments were measured, not designed to become sound bites; the meal was the star, not the reviewer. Here she does write about (among many other things) herself, and what an interesting self she turns out to be. She covers a lot of ground, including childhood before the war (i.e., World War II); college-girl adventures in New York City (especially funny: her story of breaking up with a civilian boyfriend while being attached to two other guys in the armed services); early work in home-furnishings journalism; plunging into food writing through a passion for travel; her ups and downs as a nationally known food critic for the New York Times (and other publications) and her attempts at improving what professionals call "volume feedings and mass management" and the rest of us call jail, airline, school and hospital food.
Sheraton has a fine line in dry wit and is always informative: Most readers will learn some surprising things about restaurants and reviewing. She lists the 20 most-asked quiestion and answers every one, and provides a good idea of the pressures applied to a critic by big-name restaurateurs--and by people who think they're critics just because they run a newspaper. (Odd--but I don't think the Times has reviewed her book. Odd.) But she isn't dishy. Anyone looking here for gossip, innuendo and the settling of scores has come to the wrong place. Sheraton conquers but she does not stoop.
And she does it all in 240 pages. One reason is that she writes tightly and tartly. (At least one other well-known "foodie" has published two books, totaling nearly 600 pages, and isn't finished yet.) Another is that she speaks often of wonderful dishes but gives no recipes. Good for her. Recipes are turning up in lots of places they don't really belong these days, including mysteries and popular novels. I usually suspect that means the author hasn't really got the goods, and knows it, and hopes I won't notice. (For much the same reason I resist nutritional puns traditional in this sort of review. I refuse to call this a "bubbling bouillaisse of a book.") The only time she comes close to such nonsense is with her brisk instructions (maybe a dozen words?) for how to make a Jewish chicken--or a chicken Jewish.
Sheraton's 240 pages go rattling by--there's no padding--and because even now I read as an editor, I ticked a few things: I disagree with her use of "ascribe" and "masterful," and former New York City Mayor John Lindsay would, if he could, on personal orthography. Once where she says Michelin I'm almost certain she means Gault-Millau, but that's about it. (Come to think of it, where was the copy editor?) In all, the experience was like those long-gone magazine days: great reading and effortless, too.--Bill Marsano is a professional writer and editor.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A great look at an even greater career 17 Oct. 2004
By T. Kirkham - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Ms. Sheraton's latest book is her first memoir, and looks back at her long career as a journalist.

Best known as a restaurant critic for the New York Times during the 70s, Sheraton goes into great detail about how she formulated her reviews, how she bucked the system on a regular basis with those reviews, talks about the many disguises she would don to avoid being recognized by the employees of restaurants, and her many other endevours as a freelance journalist, writing for The New Yorker and several Conde Nast publications among others.

The back cover of the book presents twenty questions, all of which are answered in the course of the book in the form of some upfront, candid, and often hilarious ways. Some of the most engrossing stories involve her battles with some legendary French chefs, including Paul Bocuse, and her unique ways of dealing with the sometimes overbearing and even sometimes obscene things the French chefs tried to do to her reputation as a food critic.

Ms. Sheraton also gets quite personal in the opening chapters, describing much of her upbringing and her youth in New York, and makes it easy to see why she has become the entertaining writer that she is.

She also tells her tales of dining all over the world, and her personal favorite spots for doing so. No matter where in the world a restaurant has opened up, chances are Sheraton has been there, and has an opinion about what it's like.

The chronological, anecdotal style of the book makes the book flow from start to finish, and quite honestly, has been one of the most entertaining books I've personally read of late.

If you're interested in getting a glimpse behind the scenes at how a top food critic operates, and want to laugh along in the process, look no further than Eating My Words.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
High Quality Memoir of Culinary Journalism 22 Nov. 2004
By B. Marold - Published on
Format: Hardcover
`Eating My Words, An Appetite for Life' by Mimi Sheraton is a culinary journalist's memoir by an author of specialized cookbooks such as `The German Cookbook' and several guides to New York restaurants and collections of reviews of same, as Ms. Sheraton was the primary restaurant reviewer of the `New York Times' for several years.

One has the feeling that this book would not have been written if it were not for the critical success of Ruth Reichl's two memoir volumes `Tender at the Bone' and `Comfort Me With Apples'. One also gets the impression that a professional writer such as Ms. Sheraton can bang out a book like this in a couple of days. I get this impression because while the stories are excellent and the quality of the writing is high, the book is simply journalism. There is little art. By this, there is nothing here which grabs your attention and holds it by the nose, enthralled to see what happens next. Ms. Sheraton has had an interesting, successful life with a few dramas, a lot of success, and a lot of satisfaction. At least, there is very little in the way of fireworks relayed in this volume. Ms. Sheraton's family and early life was about as typical as you can imagine for someone with first generation Jews in America and a woman's college experience shortly after World War II. There are some very coy hints of amorous connections, but `nothing to write home about'.

This is not to say there is nothing of interest to be learned from a book written by a skillful writer who had an important position in culinary journalism at `The New York Times'. Especially with all of it's other eminence, this journal is one of the major venues of culinary journalism in the United States, a condition created by the service of Craig Claiborne Pierre Franey at the paper in the `60s and `70s. Ms. Sheraton's service at the paper overlapped Claiborne's by a few years; however it was John Canaday and not Claiborne which Sheraton replaced as restaurant critic.

The most interesting and most practical information in this book is the stories on the politics of journalism, advertising, and review writing at `The New York Times'. In the light of the recent failure of the `Times' editorial review of political reporting, it is interesting to read of the depth to which material is routinely edited by the paper's copy and senior editors. The most interesting stories surrounded the reaction of restaurants to the presence of celebrity or reviewer diners in comparison to how some restaurants treated average customers.

Another interesting aspect of the book is the presence (or absence) of politics in determining what is printed about a restaurant or a product and what is edited out for reasons other than simple quality of writing. On the whole, `The New York Times' and other periodicals for which Ms. Sheraton wrote rarely censored anything for anything other than writing quality. In fact, `The New York Times' was probably better in this regard than other periodicals such as the magazine `New York'.

What I missed most in this book were stories about Craig Claiborne, Pierre Franey, R.W. Appel, and other luminaries of culinary journalism who worked at the `Times'.

Recommended to all foodies who like to read about restaurants. Just a bit light on Ms. Sheraton's colleagues and other personalities in the world of culinary journalism. Another reviewer who happened to edit Ms. Sheraton's copy says her writing is crisp, to the point, and free of 'showing off'. I agree completely, but she also seems to have not included quite enough spice in this otherwise crisp, cleanly written memoir.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The First & Final Word on Food Crticism & Life 16 April 2006
By Anonymous Reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I give this memoir five stars for the the author's curiousity, acumen and intelligence, all of which inform this wide-ranging tale.

Eating My Words will answer your questions about Mimi Sheraton's adventures as a New York Times food critic, travel writer and magazine editor, as well as stints spent as consultant to venues ranging from the famed Four Seasons restaurant to public schools and hospital kitchens. Through it all, Sheraton reveals a keen intellect, a dedication to research, and a passion for accuracy. Her prose is direct rather than lyrical, but the reader will emerge with a better understanding of restaurants and both admiration and appreciation for a woman and writer who has lived her life well.

Especially worthy savoring are Sheraton's love for her husband, Richard Falcone-- their marriage of 49 years gives a happy backdrop to this memoir, and Sheraton's reminiscences of her parents, who imbue her with wit, chutzpah, and lifelong curiousity about all things culinary. Also welcome are Sheraton's observations about the workplace: "It's not your job, the employer has rented it to you," she observes, noting

that if the job no longer suits you, it is time to quit-- something that Sheraton did several times in her career, including her departure from the New York Times.

My appreciation for Sheraton and this book grew as I progressed through the narrative. My initial four star appraisal had grown to five my the end of this memoir, chiefly because of my admiration for Sheraton and her well-lived life. This is a woman who has lived with zest and integrity aned, thankfully, has chosen to share her experiences with us. We should all be so lucky.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A very enjoyable work for foodies and memoir readers 24 Aug. 2006
By Gen of North Coast Gardening - Published on
Format: Paperback
After reading Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires, I wanted to read more about the world of restaurant reviewers and how the process works, just for fun. I love to think and talk about food, though I am a pretty lowbrow cook and eater myself, I appreciate creativity and hearing about new things done with food.

So picking up this book was a no-brainer. The book covers her life from college age to her career as NY Times restaurant critic, and she talks about the pressures and delights of that job. She doesn't go into a lot of drool-worthy detail about individual dishes, at least not to the extent that Reichl and other culinary memoirists tend to, but instead has a more matter of fact way of reporting the facts about her experiences.

Her writing style is crisp and clear, so the book was constantly engaging and a pleasure to read. Unfortunately the clarity of her writing made it a little bit harder to drum up that passion that I so often feel while reading. Her love for the topic shone through brightly, and there was a lot of wonderful information, but I never got to the "can't put it down" stage, where the author's wit and enthusiasm catch me to the point that I don't want to stop reading.

So four stars: entertaining, lots of interesting stories and information to ponder, clear writing style, and a good look at this career and what it takes to be in it. I liked it a lot but would recommend Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires over this one for its amusing detail about the costumes she donned, the feelings she had, and the dishes she sampled. This book was more straightforward and to the point, and while enjoyable, it lacked some of the verve that I have come to expect from culinary writings.
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