Author : Judith Newton

Publisher: She Writes Press

ISBN: 978-1-938314-03-2


These days college degrees are available in just about any discipline, be it professional or artistic. If you have the perseverance, time and finances it’s not difficult to find a degree course to further your chosen career path. What amazes me, though, is that for one of the most important careers around; parenting, there is no registered course and never has been. Couples, who start a family, do it cold turkey, mostly following the example set by their own parents. This is fine if their family circle was characterized by love, tolerance and understanding. If not, and a relationship isn’t made anywhere remotely like heaven then communication breaks down and family life is served up as a bitter dish of unrealized expectations, conflict and blame for the parents and hard times for the children.     

Judith Newton, Professor Emerita in Women and Gender Studies at U.C. Davis, lucked out in the parental department. In Tasting Home, Coming of Age in the Kitchen, Judith has written a memoir which chronicles her battle to overcome a lonely unhappy childhood with a fault-finding uncaring mother and a father who, disappointed in his choice of wife and angry at his lack of success in the business world behaved like a tyrannical bully.

Judith’s mother did have one redeeming feature; she was the most marvelous cook. I’m talking fabulous pies, cakes, cookies; any dish where Mr. Cholesterol was a front liner. Doesn’t matter. Reading this book as I have in Melbourne, Australia at the onset of winter, the recipes Judith Newton  used at the beginning of each chapter to illustrate an event or rite of passage in her life are sublime. Not always originating from her mother, salivating doesn’t begin to explain my reaction as I began each new chapter and read another mouth watering, riveting recipe. Perhaps, because of her inability to communicate with her family, the author’s mother provided culinary delights and lots of them at every meal (the only time the family was together) as compensation. 

Judith, friendless and as a result of the fat-laden meals, more than pleasantly plump is saved by her love of learning and a teenage love affair with Jesus Christ. A born again Christian she wins a scholarship to Stanford and begins to move forward towards an independent life. Growing up in times that were ‘a changin’ she samples everything that comes her way at university; feminism, the civil rights movement and cooking international recipes for the many friends she makes away from the indifference of her self-absorbed parent.

Surprised that once the extra pounds melt away guys find her attractive, Judith embarks on love affairs with mixed results. As with her forays into French cooking some experiences work out and some don’t. She does though, meet and subsequently marry a man, who while possibly not ideal husband material (he’s bisexual) becomes, along with cooking, the love of her life. 

Motherhood comes a little late to Judith but when it comes, she shares her passion for cooking with her daughter, forming a glue that ensures their relationship will always endure.  A Director of Women’s Studies in the 1990’s she setups a learning community for women from many different cultures and backgrounds, courses on and off campus nourished by opportunities to  prepare, cook and share wonderful food.

Tasting Home is written in an intimate style that engenders empathy, occasional sadness and drop dead admiration for a remarkable woman who overcame the problems visited upon her by neurotic parents, sexism in the workplace and disastrous love affairs to emerge as a loving, intelligent, highly successful human being. 

Judith Newton’s life and storytelling skill as interesting and enjoyable as her recipes, Tasting Home is a book to savour and keep.       

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