Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Book Review | Licking the Spoon by Candace Walsh

licking-the-spoonI just finished the book “Licking the Spoon” – A memoir of food, family and identity, by Candace Walsh.  I could take the easy way out and rave about it.  Others have.  But I am not.  The book was not what I was expecting.  Well written?  Yes.  Well edited?  Yes.  A foodie book?  Only in the weakest sense.

I am not against memoirs.  In fact, I prefer non-fiction and have enjoyed numerous memoirs.  I absolutely loved My Life in France – by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme about Julia Child’s life, which I hold as the gold standard for foodie books.  Why did I not warm up to this so called “foodie book”?  Many reasons.

Not the least of which was the fact that food took a “back of the bus” seat to the real storyline – her exploration and discovery of her sexual orientation as a lesbian.  I believe if this book had been marketed with honesty in the book title and subtitle, then I would not have been as disappointed.

Let me be up front on my position about sexual orientation.  I honestly think it is genetic and people are born with their sexual preference predetermined.  I am not against the lesbian lifestyle for others.  So, please don’t use that as an excuse for this negative review.  It is purely based on the fact that I was disappointed and underwhelmed by the effort.  Food should make me feel happy and reading about food, no less so.  That was not achieved in this work.

My relationship with the book got off to a rocky start.  I was really having trouble warming up to Candace and her life.  Her story was making me feel depressed and I had to put the book down frequently.  That’s why it took me so long to get through it.  The mood picked up after she went to stay with a foreign exchange family in Germany and she experienced the lifestyle of a non-dysfunctional, happy family.  And she didn’t want to leave.

Dysfunction.  This book is all about dysfunction.  It is a shame that dysfunction, like violence, as in so many of today’s reality shows, is so marketable.  It is a peek into the secret lives of others.  Normal doesn’t sell.  It is not sexy enough.  But it makes me sad that apparantly there are so many lives out there, like Candace’s, that don’t experience normal lives.  Could it perhaps be the choices that they make?  Aren’t we deterministic by nature?  Examples:  Her mother chose to live with a husband that was abusive.  Candace chose to use drugs.  Candace chose to be bulimic.  Candace chose to gain 60 pounds.   Candace chose to continue an early relationship with “Jack” who she deep-down knew cheated on her.

Candace Walsh’s memoir is a tale of a less-than-perfect childhood with dysfunctional parents and step-parents, where she chronicles her ugly duckling-to-swan transformation through drugs, an eating disorder, affairs, a marriage, children, therapy, and finally, true love found in a lesbian relationship.  Food was only a weak thread throughout, with recipes pasted in the back as an afterthought.

I think it is easy get on the band wagon with others and slip into mediocrity.  The true test is:  is this book memorable after a week, a month, a year?  I think not.


  1. It IS very frustrating to expect one thing, based on a book’s title and/or PR hype, and get another thing entirely. I probably would have been just as disappointed and disgruntled.

    As for the selling points of dysfunction–true to an extent. Reality TV may thrive on the idea of what’s going to go wrong next, but in writing we look for calamity as an opportunity for growth, change, and learning. If it’s just one bad thing after another, it’s no better than the evening news.

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