Author: Darlene Barnes
Publication Date: August 6, 2013
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours
Plot Summary from Goodreads:
Newly arrived in Seattle, Darlene Barnes stumbles on a job ad for a cook at the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity on the University of Washington campus, a prospect most serious food professionals would automatically reject. But Barnes envisions something other than kegs and corn dogs; she sees an opportunity to bring fresh, real food to an audience accustomed to "Asian Surprise" and other unidentifiable casseroles dropped off by a catering service. And she also sees a chance to reinvent herself, by turning a maligned job into meaningful work of her own creation: "I was the new girl and didn't know or care about the rules."
Naively expecting a universally appreciative audience, Barnes finds a more exasperatingly challenging environment: The kitchen is nasty, the basement is scary, and the customers are not always cooperative. Undaunted, she gives as good as she gets with these foul-mouthed and irreverent--but also funny and sensitive--guys. Her passion for real food and her sharp tongue make her kitchen a magnet for the brothers, new recruits, and sorority girls tired of frozen dinners.
Laugh-out-loud funny and poignant, Hungry offers a female perspective on the real lives of young men, tells a tale of a woman's determined struggle to find purpose, and explores the many ways that food feeds us.
My interest in this book was twofold. First, FOOD! FOOD MEMOIR! YES! Always a winner for me. Second, cook in a fraternity house. I was not affiliated with Greek life while in college, but my husband was in a fraternity. He went to a different university than I did, so I didn't see his experiences first-hand, but I've heard an awful lot of stories--including those about the food. So I was very interested to read this and compare notes with him afterwards.
Hungry is a fun, witty memoir that also requires you to concentrate on not salivating on the pages while you read. I sometimes have a hard time with memoirs that are written too soon after the events that they describe, because they give me the sense that the author lacks enough self-awareness to write about the subject with any sort of distance. However, that is not the case here. Barnes is unflinchingly honest about both her triumphs and mistakes throughout her tenure as cook to the Alpha Sigma Phi brothers, and her appealing candor is laced with a humor that makes it even more entertaining to read. Barnes has been blogging about her adventures in the fraternity house for a while already, and her comfort in writing about the subject shines through in this book.
I was impressed by her determination to bring fresh, local ingredients to the Alpha Sig house. Barnes's typical menus for the brothers are NOT what you would ever expect to see on Greek Row. And it was not at all easy for her to produce these creative, delicious meals--between picky eaters, stubborn food suppliers, and unreliable kitchen help, she had her work cut out for her. But she never lost sight of her ultimate goal, and I found that admirable. (And by the way, based on the number of stories my husband has shared about the deep-fryer in his fraternity kitchen...no, he was not eating like this when he was in college. Sadly.)
My only noted downside to the content of this memoir came near the end. I felt like things got a little rushed in the last chapter or two as it began to wrap up. I started to get confused about the timeline and whether Barnes was still the cook at the fraternity or not. I can see how she probably didn't want to get repetitive at the end (since she had already related so many similar stories by that point), but the last section just felt slightly less polished than the rest.
Beyond the memoir itself, one of the best additions to this book is in the RECIPES. Barnes scatters some relevant ones throughout the text, and that's where the salivation comes in, my friends. I am moving this book to the "cookbooks" section of my Kindle, in order to remind myself to make every darn creation that she included. If she doesn't inspire you to get in the kitchen, nothing will.
So, do I want Darlene Barnes to be my BFF? I dunno, this lady has got a sass-mouth on her that I'm not sure I could handle. But does this memoir make me want her to be my chef mentor for life? You freakin' bet.
Much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
HERE. And connect with Darlene Barnes on her website and Twitter.
TLC Book Tours is offering up a copy of Hungry, which is pretty awesome of them, I'd say. Just use the Rafflecopter below to enter. US/Canada residents only please. Giveaway ends the night of September 4, 2013!a Rafflecopter giveaway