three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
33-Mar-Apr-2008
By: 
Judith Jones
user_rating: 
0

My Life in Food

A-The Tenth MuseGrowing up in 1930s Manhattan, Judith Jones suffered the worst cooking America had to offer: bland, overcooked dishes of British origin. After World War II, a trip to Paris turned into an extended stay when her return tickets were stolen. Forced to remain in the City of Light, Jones haunted the markets and prepared French dishes in her small kitchen. Thus began her love affair with French cooking, a gastronomic romance that helped shape the course of American cuisine. Back in New York, Jones, then an editor at Knopf, championed Julia Child’s influential work Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This success led to others, as Jones helped introduce Americans to Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey, and the many other luminaries who populate this memoir. The book also contains recipes, each with its own charming story.
Knopf. 290 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0307264955

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"[Jones] chooses to stick to her subject, recounting her life in food, saving perhaps the messy bits (and the juicy bits) that have inevitably been a part of that life for the next volume. We’re still hungry for more." Dorothy Kalins

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"In passages blithely written about being young and monied, it’s apparent that Jones moved among a strata most Americans will never know. While this doesn’t mitigate her story, it does place a certain psychological chasm between the writer and reader." Cathie Beck

Chicago Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"In Jones’ lovely memoir … the woman who introduced Americans to Julia Child reveals how the cookbooks she has published over the last 50 years came to have such a profound effect on American tastes. … Jones’ prose flows as easily as her life moves from one serendipitous event to another." Julianne Tantum

Entertainment Weekly 3.5 of 5 Stars
"If anyone should be able to craft a riveting life story around casseroles, it’s Jones. … [I]ntriguing, though guarded and curiously choppy." Jennifer Reese

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Surprisingly for so venerable and celebrated an editor, her own diction in this memoir is not always beyond reproach. … At times The Tenth Muse has too much name-dropping." Martin Rubin

Critical Summary

Judith Jones, now a senior editor and vice president at Knopf, has long been a major force in the cookbook world. Her foodie fans might not know that she also played a role in bringing Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl to America or that she has edited literary stars like John Updike and Anne Tyler. Two reviewers faulted Jones’s style, but none denied her interesting and influential career. Indeed, if it weren’t for Jones, American consumers might have a hard time purchasing such basics as fresh garlic. Therein lies the challenge in interpreting the critics’ reviews: the critics were all so busy admiring Jones’s life that they didn’t have as much to say about the book itself. Though Jones is a major power in the publishing word, this memoir is not as wide-ranging as, say, Michael Korda’s Another Life. She tells delightful stories, but she sticks to the food, and her readers this time around should be mainly those who are inclined to do the same.