Thursday, August 8, 2013

TLC Book Tours Review and GIVEAWAY! Hungry by Darlene Barnes

Hungry by Darlene Barnes
Hyperion, 2013

Format? paperback
Source? the publisher via TLC Book Tours

**FTC Disclaimer: The publisher provided me a complimentary copy of Hungry.  However, the review below and the opinions therein are my own and are offered without bias.

Why?  A cooking memoir with a twist...inside a fraternity house, and trying to win a bunch of boys over to better food...a no brainer for me.

What Now?  I've spent some time on Barnes old blog and new website and cannot wait to try out some of her recipes with my family...two who could very easily fit into the crowd at the fraternity house as far as their food expectations go.

GIVEAWAY!! - the publisher is graciously allowing me to give away one copy of Darlene Barnes book Hungry! :) Please leave your name, name of your blog and email address where you can be reached in the Comments section.  I'll announce a winner in one week! :)

Golden Lines

I was becoming like the women relatives I remembered from my childhood who would spend all day making Thanksgiving dinner and then get mad at the diners who were done in ten minutes, not nearly as thankful as they goddamn well should have been. (86)

I felt bad enough about the ranch mix, especially when I read the package and saw that it was clearly made by Clorox - the same foodcentric company that made bleach and cat litter - and I stopped cold. (133)

When Ramona made a great big noisy fuss, she usually got her way.  Great big noisy fusses were often necessary. 
- Ramona the Pest, Beverly Cleary (157)

With my incessant demands for something better than the garbage indifferently dropped off at most other "institutions," I was a tough customer. (159)

But I learned over time that it was actually really hard to find simple food.  I was an easier customer in the days before I began to ask questions about where our products were coming from, what was in them, and why. (160)

The power of the big food manufacturers was such that when I served a cake with buttercream frosting, surprisingly consisting of butter and cream, the guys were confused by the taste. (205)

Don't let anyone die and don't let Darlene quit. 

"It's dirty work.  It's exhausting.  It doesn't pay enough.  I don't need to do this." And just as the words were out of my mouth, one of the guys ran down the stairs and out the back door yelling, "Bye, Darlene, love you Darlene!" And there was nothing more to say. (234)

Short and Sweet Summary

After a move to Seattle with her husband, Darlene Barnes accepts a job working as a cook for a fraternity house.  She feeds the fraternity brothers as she fed her own two boys while they were growing up at home and also the same way she herself grew up in Louisiana, fresh, homegrown, sustainable, and farm raised.  As can be expected, her "customers" many of whom are accustomed to processed, powdery cheese meals, are  not always pleased with her choices and do not always create a pleasant working environment nor do the vendors who've never met anyone quite like Darlene.  Darlene is a tough cookie though; she can take their grumbling, and better yet, she can dish it right back! 

What I Liked

Oh my goodness the recipes!!  These are like dreams come true for me...basic recipes but all use fresh and organic produce, meats, etc.  These recipes are designed to please a house full of young men, who mostly are looking for traditional meals.  Recipes I WILL be making soon include:
Interview Pot Roast
Korean Marinade for Flank Steak
various salad dressings
Black Bottom Pie and Parker House Rolls
Salsa and Pimiento Cheese
Deviled Eggs
Blueberry Cornbread
Creamy Penne with Chicken and Smoked Sausage

Darlene's humor and down to earth attitude - she doesn't present life as a fraternity cook as one of an all loving grandmother existence...quite the contrary, she likes some of the guys and dislikes others...her efforts are not always appreciated, and that's not ok.  Her job is not an easy one, and she threatens to quit many times...for very good reasons.  But, Darlene is real as it gets.  

Darlene does become a motherly like substitute for some of the guys, but she's not even close to the June Cleaver image so many people think of when they think of a woman in the kitchen.  She's powerful, has a strong voice, speaks her mind, makes mistakes, and realizes that who she is and what she has to offer isn't for everyone.  And, that's ok.  But, she's not sorry...and don't get in her way. :)

Fraternity life - While Barnes book is not "about" fraternity life, it would have been impossible for her to write this book without including some details of life inside the house.  I think a lot of people will be surprised that the house is not party central 24/7, and that people do live there and carry out normal everyday tasks in between classes and yes, the parties.  Barnes observations ring very true to me from my own sorority and fraternity little sister experiences in college.  Another chip off the Animal House stereotype of Greek living.  Bravo!

The writing - I'm a composition professor - Barnes offers her story pure an unadulterated...with recipes and annotation at the end of each chapter on how and what she fed the guys.  She also includes notes that she writes to the guys, notes written to her, texts, and quotes from literary selections.  I read this book in a matter of's that engaging and that good.

What I Didn't Like

Darlene's first employers - a wealthy family for whom she is personal chef -  to me, they are the epitome of what's wrong with today's food culture...spoiled rotten consumers who expect even natural food to bow to their whims and demands.  Blueberries are not supposed to taste good in February, Doofus...and these are some the "power" people in our country.

Overall Recommendation

If you like fresh food, if you're the least bit interested in the fresh food movement that is thankfully spreading across America, you'll like this book.  Not only is it funny, spirited and fast moving, but it also is VERY helpful for those of us who are diligently trying to reclaim what once was ours and somehow slipped away.  What Barnes does very well is show us that the "fresh food movement" isn't something new.  For future generations, looking back to our pasts and how we grew, ate, prepared, and shared out own foods, is a good thing.

The Author

Other Stops on the Tour

Monday, August 5th:  Life, Love & Books
Wednesday, August 7th:  ::steph chows::
Thursday, August 8th:  Peppermint Ph.D.
Friday, August 9th:  Lit and Life
Monday, August 12th:  A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Thursday, August 15th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, August 19th:  Book Club Classics!
Wednesday, August 21st:  Guiltless Reading
Thursday, August 22nd:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Monday, August 26th:  Bookchickdi
Wednesday, August 28th:  The Well Read Redhead
Tuesday, September 3rd:  Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, September 5th:  BookNAround
Monday, September 9th:  girlichef
Saturday, September 14th:  Joyfully Retired


  1. This sounds like a great book! Melinda ( /

  2. I'm not a huge foodie, but this sounds like it has such a great perspective that it seems a little irresistible! I can always use a good recipe, too. Shannon - - rivercityreading [@] gmail [dot] com

    1. I don't think you need to be a foodie to enjoy this one. The recipes and info Barnes shares is just really for those who care about what they put in their mouths and are concerned about how far we've moved away from fresh in really just one generation. The recipes are basic...nothing fancy. But, that's the way I like them :)

  3. Modern "advances" do seem to hurt our food--and our health. This book sounds like one I'd really enjoy and value. Terrific review! Please enter me in the giveaway for Hungry.

    Suko's Notebook

  4. I think you'll like it, Suko :) I made the interview pot roast last night and it was simple but very tasty! My youngest even said it was the best "meat, meat, meat" (her baby name for pot roast that we still use from time to time) I'd ever made :):)

  5. Ohhhhh I know, I didn't like her first employers at all, either! Gaaahhhh!

    Enjoyed reading your review!

    1. Amazing that there really are people like that in the world, right??

  6. I'm sure she has some great stories! Thanks for the giveaway!

    Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

    1. It's a fun read and you can't help but rooting for Darlene!

    2. You've won the Giveaway, Cerebral Girl :) I'm forwarding your contact information to the publisher :)

  7. Arrrghh, that wealthy family in Texas just ticked me right off! I would have loved to hear her stand up to them. The way they are portrayed as treating staff is just disgusting.

    I see from your comment above that you made the pot roast? That's great! I'll have to give it a try since it has such rave reviews. : )

    1. Yes! The family loved the pot roast and there was only a small amount left the next day for a sandwich! I usually end up thowing some away. The potatoes had the best taste as well and the carrots were just right!

  8. Not sure it's appropriate to comment on reviews about my book (please remove if not!), but since the Pot Roast recipe keeps coming up...I gave my grandmother's very plain version in the book. My variation: season the meat with the cajun seasoning recipe that is in the book (buy the spices in bulk, make a lot, and give as gifts!). Use a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes instead of water.

    1. Authors stop by sometimes, Darlene, and we LOVE it when they do!!
      My husband is the pickiest eater in the world...He would eat fried chicken and macaroni & cheese every night if I made it for him. He LOVED the pot roast! I think the simplicity is what makes it so great for me. It's easy to get overwhelmed when trying to feed your family better...there's so much news out there and so many contradictions, I think a lot of people just say, "to heck with it!" Your book shows that fresh and natural doesn't have to be difficult and that it can be fancy as well...if a person chooses for it to be :)
      I will definitely try your variation of the pot roast as well. I'm making the Korean Marinated Flank Steak next...just have to double check my grocery story for gochujang first :)
      Thanks so much for the great read and again for stopping by :)

    2. I was just reading in Matthew Amster-Burton's charming book "Hungry Monkey; A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater" that if you can't find gochuchang, you can use Sriracha sauce (which seems to be everywhere now). I don't think they're the same, but I can see how that would work in a pinch.

    3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    4. Thanks, Darlene...for the substitute suggestion and the book recommendation! :)

  9. I would just like to add to this wonderful review that in addition to Darlene's work to reclaim the fresh food movement, she's also done a lot to empower Chefs in the Greek community - a class of artists who are generally either ignored or denigrated. And, as someone who works in that world, I just want to thank her again for that (for about the twentieth time now). Oh, and the Chicken Tortellini soup is awesome.

    1. Wow, Joel...I'd love to hear more about chefs in the Greek you have any reading recommendations? I hope we'll all be hearing a lot more from Darlene in the future :)
      My plan is to make my way through the entire book of recipes, and I LOVE soups during the fall and winter! :) Thanks for stopping by!

  10. It was interesting to read about the hierarchy in the food industry. Funny that so many "chefs" would look down their noses at Greek system cooks given the kind of food that so many restaurants put out. Heck, most of them get most of their food from the same sources!

    1. I thought that was interesting too, Lisa...but I guess just like many other industries, the almighty dollar speaks louder than anything else, and everybody wants their piece of the pie :(

  11. Yes, isn't it SO interesting that the rich clientele she worked with before were the most clueless about their food?? You'd think it would be the opposite. Their ignorance was definitely disappointing.
    Great review!

  12. Thanks for being on the tour!