Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites

Food has always been a source of comfort and creative muse for Kate Christensen (The Astral; The Great Man). It figures predominantly in her novels, moving characters along major story arcs, and exerts the same centering force in her satisfying memoir, Blue Plate Special--a title that reflects the happiest times in her life and the old-fashioned, home-cooked dinners of her youth.

These nostalgic recollections, the healing ingredients of Christensen's life, are the sources of the memoir's emotional strength. She writes of childhood memories of domestic discord fueled by an abusive absentee father and an emotionally needy mother. She goes through broken, fractured relationships and seemingly impossible romances that include a rocky, 14-year marriage to an artist that survives beyond their mutual interest in food, only to disintegrate from her own self-sabotage.

Christensen's iron-clad will and fierce independence play strong roles in her survival from self-imposed desolation, although fork and plate are the primary forces that bridge and resolve these internal conflicts. Writing about food is, for Christensen, "in some ways better than eating the forbidden items in real life," like fine music or a literary epic to be savored and treasured for all its transcendant pleasures.

"To taste fully is to live fully. And to live fully is to be awake and responsive to the complexities and truths--good and terrible, overwhelming and miniscule," Christensen writes. "To eat passionately is to allow the world in; there can be no hiding or sublimation when you're chewing a mouthful of food so good it makes you swoon." --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

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