Hungry for honest food, hungry for some honest care.
About Hungry: What Eighty Ravenous Guys Taught Me about Life, Love and the Power of Good Food:
“Few sane cooks would take on the trials of cooking five days a week for a fraternity house. Unique, funny, touching.” —Booklist
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, Seattle, 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 by a catering service. And she 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.”
In HUNGRY, naively expecting a universally appreciative audience, Barnes finds an 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 two centsI'm a bit of a foodie so when I saw this up for review, I pounced. Enjoying good food, preparing it simply yet with great ingredients matters so much for our own family. I could relate on so many levels with Darlene and her "boys."
Food is definitely more than just feeding a human body. Anywhere in the world, so much happens around food -- just think of the family celebrations, the social events, and even the simple acts of nourishment and comfort that we associate with food. Chicken soup when you've got a cold? A turkey during Thanksgiving? For me, a whole roasted pig reminds me of family reunions.
Which is why I really enjoyed this book! (Note that there's roast pig featured here too!) Over six years working as the chef in the frat house, Darlene established herself not only as the one who serves up great food, but unwittingly also some good old fashioned care and compassion. She became more than a cook, she mattered dearly in the lives of these young men and vice versa -- during the routine day-today, through life moments, in times of fun and craziness, and even in grief.
Everything is honest and real, just like Darlene's cooking! Not having professional training but a food lover all her life, Darlene finds that she has free rein at the frat house, at least in terms of her cooking, with complete freedom to set up her systems, to challenge the stereotypes of frat food, and of people's expectations in general. While Darlene has to contend with the trappings of being surrounded by young frat men in this subculture of secret traditions, she is also a force to contend with -- a tough woman who insists only on home cooking, using fresh ingredients, and preparing things from scratch. Later on, she went on to source her produce and meat from local producers, preferring organic and free range. She is a bit of a whiner, mind you. But she stuck to her guns and her insistence on serving good food with a dose of humour (ok, maybe snark is a better term).
I think this book highlights so many important food and eating issues facing people every day. It is heartening to see how Darlene was able to start the transformation of the food culture in a frat house -- from prepared, prepackaged and processed foods to rediscovering home cooking, as well as be instrumental in shaping young men's minds and attitudes towards food and cooking.
Verdict: Such a feel-good book! A touching, funny, and enjoyable memoir of Darlene's journey from frat house cook to someone memorable and important in the lives of young men. Peppered with Darlene's own recipes, I sighed, smiled, and had my heartstrings pulled by Darlene and her hungry frat boys. Highly recommended!
About Darlene BarnesDarlene Barnes has been food and word passionate all her life, cooking professionally for the last eleven years. Born in the New Orleans area, she spent most of her pre-college years in London, eventually moving to Canada with her husband and graduating from Queen’s University with a BA in English. Since 2006, she has cooked for the men of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, offering fresh food, tough love and largely unsolicited advice to her college age customers. She has blogged about her experiences at www.hungryboys.net and now at www.darlenebarnes.com; she lives with her husband in Seattle, where her two grown sons also reside.
Hungry for more? Thanks to the publisher, I have 1 copy of Hungry to give away! (US/Can only)
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I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Hyperion (August 6, 2013)