"The joy of lemon cannot stand alone; it needs sugar or olive oil, something to bring it back to earth. Vinegar literally cries out for fat. Fat falls flat without salt or sugar. Chile heat sings with brown sugar. And bitterness, well that needs it all"
For many years Thielen and her sculptor husband Aaron Spangler left New York City and her jobs in the kitchens of famous chefs, to summer in their native northern Minnesota, in a remote cabin without phone service, electricity, refrigeration or running water. Despite the challenges, or because such constraints force creativity, she turned her cabin in the woods into a great kitchen in the great Midwest. An absorbing and lyrical memoir of working the line in the man's world of Manhattan kitchens, and homesteading the coldest place in the continental United States. One day into reading Give a Girl a Knife I realized that my favorite magazine recipe for a modernized (leeks!) "hot dish" --made again by me that week-- was one of hers. There were no leftovers.
A beautifully written food memoir chronicling one woman’s journey from her rural Midwestern hometown to the intoxicating world of New York City fine dining—and back again—in search of her culinary roots
Before Amy Thielen frantically plated rings of truffled potatoes in some of New York City’s finest kitchens—for chefs David Bouley, Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten—she grew up in a northern Minnesota town home to the nation’s largest French fry factory, the headwaters of the fast food nation, with a mother whose generous cooking dripped with tenderness, drama, and an overabundance of butter. Inspired by her grandmother’s tales of cooking in the family farmhouse, Thielen moves north with her artist husband to a rustic, off-the-grid cabin deep in the woods. There, standing at the stove three times a day, she finds the seed of a growing food obsession that leads her to the sensory madhouse of New York’s top haute cuisine brigades. But, like a magnet, the foods of her youth draw her back home, where she comes face to face with her past and a curious truth: that beneath every foie gras sauce lies a rural foundation of potatoes and onions. Amy Thielen’s coming-of-age story pulses with energy, a cook’s eye for intimate detail, and a dose of dry Midwestern humor. Give a Girl a Knife offers a fresh, vivid view into New York’s high-end restaurants before returning Thielen to her roots, where she realizes that the marrow running through her bones is not demi-glace but gravy—thick with nostalgia and hard to resist.
About the Author
AMY THIELEN is the author of the James Beard Award-winning cookbook The New Midwestern Table and the host of Heartland Table on Food Network. A former New York City line cook, she now speaks and writes about home cooking for radio, television, and magazines, including Saveur, where she’s a contributing editor. She lives with her husband, visual artist Aaron Spangler, their son, his dog, and a bunch of chickens, in rural Park Rapids, Minnesota.
"Give a Girl a Knife made me consider a move to, or at least a summer spent in, rural Minnesota just to be close to Amy and her home kitchen. I've read my fair share of chef memoirs—full of heroes, hard nights, and militant discipline. Amy's story is different. It's about more than her wacky path through some of New York's best kitchens; it's about Amy's innate need to cook. What is it they say? Writers write. Chefs cook. Amy is the rare example of someone who does both like a boss!" —Vivian Howard, author of Deep Run Roots
"Amy's story of being true to herself, even when it means going against the grain (and off the grid, both literally and figuratively), is exciting and inspiring. I love how food lures her to return home—but this time on her own terms." —Andie Mitchell, author of It Was Me All Along
“Fans of Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones and Butter will enjoy this chef's memoir of learning to cook in Minnesota and dicing and deep-frying her way through the kitchens of some of New York's most esteemed chefs.” —AM New York
"One of the best coming of age food memoirs you’ll ever pick up." —Rolling Stone
"With every turn of the page I felt the tides that pull from country to city: familial love and the consuming desire of an impossibly possible career; the simple pleasures of a freshly-picked kohlrabi and the smell of shaved black truffles." —Joy Summers, Eater
2017 Best Books of the Year—Shelf Awareness
The Best Books Written About Food in 2017—The Independent
10 New Nonfiction Food Books to Read this Spring/Summer—Bon Appétit
Book Club Pick—Eater
5 Can't Miss New Reads—Huffington Post
19 Best Books to Read in May—Entertainment Weekly
19 Summer Books That Will Keep You Up All Night Reading—PBS’s NewsHour
5 New Books to Read this Summer—Epicurious
7 New Books you should read in May—Time Out
5 Hot Books— The National Book Review
20 Best Nonfiction Books coming in May—Bustle
10 Best Books of May—Nylon
Favorite Books of May 2017—Read It Forward
Midwest Indie Bookseller pick for June
Austin Page Turners's pick for 2018 city-wide read