Hungry: A Memoir of Wanting More by Grace Dent
|Hungry: A Memoir of Wanting More by Grace Dent|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: She doesn't quite have national treasure status yet (it's only an age thing, Grace) but she's certainly well-loved. Hungry tells us the story of the woman behind the media image. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304/9h23m||Date: October 2020|
|External links: Author's website|
I'm always relieved when Grace Dent is one of the judges on Masterchef. You know that you're going to get an honest opinion from someone whom you sense does real food rather than fine dining most of the time. You also ponder on how she can look so elegant with all that good food in front of her. I've often wondered about the woman behind the media image and Hungry: A Memoir of Wanting More is a stunning read which will make you laugh and break your heart in equal measures.
She was born in Carlisle in 1973. Her father was in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and her earliest memory is of walking away from the NAAFI with him in 1976. He was Liverpool born and bred and you occasionally catch a trace of the Scouse accent in Grace Dent's voice. Liverpool genes are like a rogue pair of red knickers in the washing machine with your whites. They leave a trace. Her mother was the Amazon who held the family together. It was a second marriage for both of them and whilst her father would regularly tell her she was his only little girl, Grace would gradually unpick the story of Jackie and Tina from his earlier marriage and then another son. Her father told you what he wanted you to know and was adept at avoiding questions he didn't want to answer.
Grace and her father would regularly make sketty together. Sketty was her father's way of saying spaghetti - and it was delicious. Food played a big part in Grace's childhood. She has memories of the opening of the ASDA superstore, which most people in Currock would remember more vividly than the death of Princess Diana. It changed lives. Going there was an outing, particularly if you could stock up on reduced items at the end of the day. The yellow WHOOPS! stickers were hunted down and loaded into the trolley. It's hard to avoid the thought that it wasn't in any way a healthy diet.
School wasn't a priority, but Grace was clever and almost despite herself, she went to Stirling University to read English Literature but she wanted to be in London when she graduated. Her steady rise through the world of magazines (Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan), into being a much-respected restaurant critic and television personality hid a dark, personal worry - the state of her parents' health. For some time her father had been 'acting strangely' and it was gradually becoming apparent that he had dementia. Getting a diagnosis was difficult: nurses and doctors persisted in talking to her father (rather than the family) and he was clever enough to make everything appear to be fine. Grace's mother was suffering from cancer and the treatments she was receiving left her exhausted and unable to cope. Grace needed to spend most of her time in Cumbria to look after her parents and restaurant reviews had to be done as occasional forays.
I read Hungry in one sitting: it was just too good to put down. It's candid: nothing appears to be 'glossed over' and I loved it. I loved too that it's inspiring: she didn't get to where she is on the back of a double-barrelled name, public school and a top university. She got there through hard work and determination but didn't forget her parents. There's no suggestion that she thought of them as a burden but what she has to say about the situation is heart-breaking and took me back to the final years of my parents' lives when I had similar problems. It was almost painful. I'd like to thank the publishers for making a copy of Hungry available to the Bookbag.
You might also enjoy Dadland: A Journey into Uncharted Territory by Keggie Carew.
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