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My Mother's Kitchen: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and the Meaning of Life

My Mother's Kitchen: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and the Meaning of Life

by Peter Gethers

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My Mother's Kitchen is a funny, moving memoir about a son’s discovery that his mother has a genius for understanding the intimate connections between cooking, people and love

Peter Gethers wants to give his aging mother a very personal and perhaps final gift: a spectacular feast featuring all her favorite dishes. The problem is, although


My Mother's Kitchen is a funny, moving memoir about a son’s discovery that his mother has a genius for understanding the intimate connections between cooking, people and love

Peter Gethers wants to give his aging mother a very personal and perhaps final gift: a spectacular feast featuring all her favorite dishes. The problem is, although he was raised to love food and wine he doesn’t really know how to cook. So he embarks upon an often hilarious and always touching culinary journey that will ultimately allow him to bring his mother’s friends and loved ones to the table one last time.

The daughter of a restaurateur—the restaurant was New York’s legendary Ratner’s—Judy Gethers discovered a passion for cooking in her 50s. In time, she became a mentor and friend to several of the most famous chefs in America, including Wolfgang Puck, Nancy Silverton and Jonathan Waxman; she also wrote many cookbooks and taught cooking alongside Julia Child. In her 80s, she was robbed of her ability to cook by a debilitating stroke. But illness has brought her closer than ever to her son: Peter regularly visits her so they can share meals, and he can ask questions about her colorful past, while learning her kitchen secrets. Gradually his ambition becomes manifest: he decides to learn how to cook his mother the meal of her dreams and thereby tell the story of her life to all those who have loved her.

With his trademark wit and knowing eye, Peter Gethers has written an unforgettable memoir about how food and family can do much more than feed us—they can nourish our souls.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[In My Mother's Kitchen,] Gethers decides to learn to cook his mother's favorite dishes, then cook them for her.... Their relationship has always been solid, and her son's patience and love are wonderful to behold." —The New York Times Book Review

“Each [recipe] is an avenue into Gethers’ own personal memories of his family, which he tells in a funny, practiced, exuberant voice, a raconteur’s voice…. [His] depiction of [his mother’s] merciless palate, quiet feminism and courageously resilient spirit give My Mother’s Kitchen a reliable homing signal…. Its recipes may not change your life, but some dish has, somewhere along the line; if you’re fortunate you remember who made it for you as clearly and lovingly as this book does.” —USA Today

"A wonderful tribute to family, food, travel, and spirit.... Readers will leave feeling deeply connected to Gethers’ legendary mom, not to mention hungry for good food—and a good life.”—Booklist

"A funny, irreverent, and joyous testament to a remarkable life."—Publishers Weekly

"A very funny as well as moving tribute. A well-written and engaging memoir.... Also a great primer on second acts and living (and dying) well." —Library Journal

"Exuberant and entertaining.... A loving family portrait and a treat for foodies." —Kirkus Reviews

“Proust had his madeleine; Judy Gethers had her matzo brei. Here is a memoir—and a menu—that perfectly pays tribute to a patron saint of American gastronomy. Through his generous storytelling, Peter Gethers provides all the satisfaction and enrichment of a delicious meal.”—Dan Barber

"What a heartening love letter! A love letter to moms, a love letter to recipes, to menus, to dishes; a love letter to restaurants and other families; a love letter to the comfort and optimism that making food brings with it."—Yotam Ottolenghi

"Peter Gethers has written a hilarious and emotional memoir about his relationship with his beloved mother Judy, who, with pluck, style and chutzpah shaped the author, her loving marriage and their family life, dish by dish. There is much to savor here: and every story comes with a recipe: the glory days of their family restaurant/celeb haunt Ratner's (those onion rolls!), the Hollywood years with Bing Crosby singing that song at the piano, Judy's gutsy mid-life career as a chef encouraged by Mr. Puck himself, and her full circle move back to Manhattan. Every recipe is a love letter, mother to son, and now, luckily and generously, shared with all of us. Scrumptious."—Adriana Trigiani, author of The Shoemaker’s Wife and All the Stars in Heaven

"Peter Gethers understands the ways of cookbooks so well. But only after reading My Mother’s Kitchen did I realize his own transgenerational involvement with family and food. His was a Jewish kitchen, mine an Italian kitchen. The flavors might have been different but the sentiments and connections through food were the same. A great read!"—Lidia Bastianich

"A very personal love poem to the amazing Judy Gethers. I was one of Judy's ‘adopted’ children after I met her in 1980 at Ma Maison. She was funny, stern, serious, organized, loving and, most of all, a passionate cook. I was saddened by her passing; thankfully Peter Gethers brings back the Judy we all loved."—Jonathan Waxman

“Even if you don't have a penchant for memoirs that exhibit a son's true love and reverence for his mother, or include fascinating and hysterical old New York stories, or work in some killer recipes, you should read this book just because it contains the phrase ‘kreplach-eating hoods.’”—Tara Clancy, author of The Clancys of Queens

"I came to Los Angeles in my mid-20s, becoming head chef and partner at Ma Maison. That's where I met Judy Gethers, whom I soon came to think of as my second mother. Like my mother, Judy always looked after me—as a kind, gentle, and generous friend; as co-author on my first four cookbooks; and as director of my Ma Cuisine cooking school. In fact, I always liked to say that Judy was the Ma of Ma Cuisine. She was its heart and soul."—Wolfgang Puck

"Rare is the book that has you laughing on crying on the same page. My Mother’s Kitchen is so much more than the enticingly-written recipes or a nostalgic look at bygone dishes and restaurants. Instead Gethers posits – with unflinching and refreshing realism - that food and humor are the only antidotes to aging and illness. Gethers inherits this gift for language, for laughing, and for eating from his mother Judy, less a matriarch than a force of nature, and the beating heart of the book." —Stephanie Danler, author Sweetbitter

"My Mother's Kitchen is beautiful and touching. It’s a must read for anyone who ever had a mother, was partof a family, or who ate breakfast in the morning. Andit’s enormously moving in the best of ways--tender, perfectly seasoned, magnifique."A.M. Homes, author of May We Be Forgiven

"A treasure for feminists, foodies, people who care about family ties and values, and for smart people wholove to read. My Mother's Kitchen is sophisticated and delicious, filled withfine sentiment, yet without a hint of schmaltz." —Susan Isaacs, author of Shining Through

Library Journal
Most people think their mother is special, but not many of us have a mother who starts a new career at age 53 and quickly becomes a world-famous chef and cooking teacher at Ma Maison, hobnobbing with Wolfgang Puck and Julia Child. This new memoir and paean to his mother is the work of Gethers (The Cat Who Went to Paris). His father was a Hollywood writer and producer, while his mother's family founded Ratner's deli in New York, which operated from 1905 to 2004. With this kind of background, there is no dearth of material. The book is loosely structured around a series of his mother's favorite dishes that he attempts to re-create for her before her death at age 93. Personal and family stories are interspersed with his tribulations of trying to prepare these often-complicated recipes to his mothers' still gourmet standards. All of this makes for a very funny as well as moving tribute. VERDICT A well-written and engaging memoir, particularly for foodies. Also a great primer on second acts and living (and dying) well.—Susan Hurst, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH
Kirkus Reviews
A celebration of food connects a mother and son.In an exuberant and entertaining memoir, novelist, screenwriter, playwright, editor, and producer Gethers (Ask Bob, 2013, etc.) pays homage to his mother, an accomplished cook, and to the amazing food they both loved. His goal in writing, he says, "was to cook with my mom, to share the breakfast and lunch menus with her as I went along, and to become proficient enough in the kitchen so I could make the dinner of her dreams." His mother died before he could make that dinner, but the author includes recipes for her favorite dishes along with a running commentary of his occasionally bumbling efforts to cook some complicated gourmet dishes invented by chefs that his mother admired: Joël Robuchon's mashed potatoes, for example, Yotam Ottolenghi's quail, and Wolfgang Puck's salmon coulibiac. Judy Gethers committed fully to cooking at age 53, honing her skills at the esteemed Los Angeles restaurant Ma Maison, where Puck reigned. Cooking, the author writes, "quickly became an all-consuming passion, and her life soon revolved around crème caramels and salmon mousse and various foods en croute." Although devoted to her warm and supportive husband and their two grown sons, she also found in the restaurant "a new family" among the staff (Puck became a beloved friend) and "a new kind of exhilaration." She redefined herself through cooking and reveled in her accomplishments. Inspired by his mother's new passion, Gethers edited cookbooks and produced food-related TV shows; he also began to cook, taking on some daunting challenges. When he first read the multistep recipe for salmon coulibiac, he admits he felt "borderline hysterical," but he managed to produce a dish that was, he writes proudly, "a work of art"—but not as amazing as what his mother would have made. "My mother's food," he exults, "has always been exactly like my mother: appealing, comforting, genuine, unpretentious, at times whimsical, always elegant." A loving family portrait and a treat for foodies.

Product Details

Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
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Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Peter Gethers is an author, screenwriter, playwright, book editor, and film and television producer. His books include The Cat Who Went to Paris, the first in a bestselling trilogy about his extraordinary cat, Norton. He is also the cocreator and coproducer of the hit off-Broadway play Old Jews Telling Jokes. He lives in New York City, Sag Harbor, New York, and, whenever possible, Sicily.

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