Give a Girl a Knife: A Memoir (Paperback)
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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."
"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
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