ISBN is

978-0-375-41106-9 / 0375411062

Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family

by Volk, Patricia

Publisher:Knopf

Edition:Hardcover

Language:English

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About the book:

Patricia Volk's enchanting memoir nails both 20th-century American life and the glorious eccentricities of her relatives with the gift for vivid detail of a fiction writer. (After all, she's published one novel and two short-story collections.) "Our hallway was the color of ballpark mustard. The living room was cocoa, my mother's wall-to-wall, iceberg green," she tells us. Volk begins with her adored immediate family: charismatic father, hypercritical but loving mother ("Mom made me, and now she will make me better"), and older sister Jo Ann, best friend and occasional mortal enemy. But they're only the beginning, just as the garment-district restaurant that rules her father's life is only one of the family achievements. Great-grandfather Sussman brought pastrami to the New World. Grandfather Jake, a demolition expert, was profiled in The New Yorker. "Everybody did one thing better than anybody else. Aunt Gertie sang the works of Victor Herbert. Aunt Ruthie mamboed. Granny Ethel braked with such finesse it was impossible to tell the moment the car went from moving to a stop." Of course, perennially negative Aunt Lil embroidered a pillow with the motto "I've Never Forgotten a Rotten Thing Anyone Has Done to Me"--but maybe she was embittered by the fact that Uncle Al slept with her for 11 years then refused to marry her because she wasn't a virgin. (She sent out wedding invitations anyway, and he fell in line.) All these great stories are arranged along a casual chronological arc ("from Sussman Volk in 1888 to Cecil Volk in 1988"), but nothing is ever really finished. Her father closes Morgen's in Manhattan; her sister's husband opens a trendy food shop in Florida. "We're still feeding people," Volk asserts. Readers will find her prose as delicious as family housekeeper Mattie's chocolate cake. Recipes included. --Wendy Smith

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