Book Review of
Give a Girl a Knife
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.
This book shares the story of the author growing up in Minnesota, living off the grid in rural Minnesota, traveling to New York to become a chef, and returning home to Minnesota again. About twenty five percent of this book takes place in New York, but this book is all about Minnesota. The life there and the desire to return to it.
What I loved about this book, though, was that this could be the story of so many people. Many people leave the small town middle of no where place that they grew up never to return. Others though leave and then feel the constant pull that brings them back home. Home to the life they thought they wanted to escape, yet ends up being what they truly long for. If you grew up in a small town in America, this book will probably make you long for home again.