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Give a Girl a Knife

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A beautifully written food memoir chronicling one cook'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 Vongeric A beautifully written food memoir chronicling one cook'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 pulsed with joy, family drama, and an overabundance of butter. Inspired by her grandmother s tales of cooking on the family farm, Thielen moves with her artist husband to the rustic, off-the-grid cabin he built in the woods. There, standing at the stove three times a day, she finds the seed of a growing food obsession that leads to the sensory madhouse of New York s top haute cuisine brigades. When she goes home, 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, and that taste memory is the most important ingredient of all. Amy Thielen's coming-of-age account brims 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 restaurant before returning Thielen to her roots, where she realizes that the marrow running through her bones is not demi-glace, but gravy honest, thick with nostalgia, and hard to resist."


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A beautifully written food memoir chronicling one cook'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 Vongeric A beautifully written food memoir chronicling one cook'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 pulsed with joy, family drama, and an overabundance of butter. Inspired by her grandmother s tales of cooking on the family farm, Thielen moves with her artist husband to the rustic, off-the-grid cabin he built in the woods. There, standing at the stove three times a day, she finds the seed of a growing food obsession that leads to the sensory madhouse of New York s top haute cuisine brigades. When she goes home, 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, and that taste memory is the most important ingredient of all. Amy Thielen's coming-of-age account brims 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 restaurant before returning Thielen to her roots, where she realizes that the marrow running through her bones is not demi-glace, but gravy honest, thick with nostalgia, and hard to resist."

30 review for Give a Girl a Knife

  1. 5 out of 5

    Larry H

    I'd rate this 4.5 stars. About 14-15 years ago (how can that be?) I went to culinary school, and worked as a personal chef for about 18 months until the economy started tanking. At that time, I always had this dream of opening a little restaurant, nothing super fancy. Of course, once I worked at a restaurant for a brief period, that dream died quickly—I thrive on pressure and chaos, but the frenetic pace of cooking in a restaurant, not to mention the pressure of having to always get everything ri I'd rate this 4.5 stars. About 14-15 years ago (how can that be?) I went to culinary school, and worked as a personal chef for about 18 months until the economy started tanking. At that time, I always had this dream of opening a little restaurant, nothing super fancy. Of course, once I worked at a restaurant for a brief period, that dream died quickly—I thrive on pressure and chaos, but the frenetic pace of cooking in a restaurant, not to mention the pressure of having to always get everything right, would have driven me insane. That journey in self-discovery is reinforced whenever I read a chef's memoir. Just hearing about the frenetic nature of readying plates in a high-end restaurant is enough to send me reaching for a Xanax. (Check out Michael Gibney's excellent Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line for a great example of this.) "Cooking wasn't just a job; it was a life—what looked to all outsiders, including my own boyfriend, like a pretty terrible life. It was, as Aaron feared, a real affliction. And possibly, a dysfunctional relationship." While Amy Thielen's terrific new book, Give a Girl a Knife , dips into this territory, as it chronicled her tenure cooking for some of the finest chefs—David Bouley, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud, and Shea Gallante—in some of New York's most famous restaurants, it didn't dwell on this exclusively. The more time Thielen spent working on fabled, complex dishes, with ingredients and techniques not often seen in everyday kitchens, the more she realized that behind every fancy plate are the backbones of her Midwestern culinary heritage—potatoes, onion, bacon, and butter—lots of butter. Thielen grew up in Northern Minnesota, in a town known as the home of the nation's largest French fry factory. Her mother, like generations of women before her, reveled in cooking homey, delicious, yet seemingly uncomplicated dishes reflective of Midwestern culture and the German, Austrian, and French heritage of their ancestors. Dishes like pork roast, spaetzle, fermented sour pickles, poppy seed coffee cake, and the infamous hotdishes, laden with bacon and (quite often) cheese, were part of almost every meal for Thielen and her family, yet when she decided to go to culinary school and pursue a career as a chef in New York City, she couldn't get far enough away from those elements, until she realized how truly interrelated everything was. Give a Girl a Knife juxtaposes Thielen's culinary career with a chronicle of her growing up surrounded by food and the magnificent women who brought the food to delectable life. It also dealt with her struggles as she and her boyfriend (and eventual husband) Aaron tried to bring their dream of living in an off-the-grid, hand-built cabin deep in the Minnesota woods to life. It is during their time in the cabin that awakens Amy's love of food, of coaxing beauty, as well as both subtlety and vibrance, from homegrown fruits and vegetables, as well as meats. But the time she spends in New York City, as much as she feels it embraces her talents, leaves her longing for the solitude of their cabin, and inspires her journey to better understand her culinary heritage from the beginning. It's a journey that shapes her and her career, as well as her path for her future. "I'd spent years trying to erase those homely flavors from my past, but when I gave my nostalgia an inch, it ran down the road a mile. Like an archaeologist picking in the hard-packed clay, I felt a need to return home to excavate the old flavors and all the feelings I'd ever tied to them." At one point when she is trying to decide what to do with her life, Thielen considers being a food writer. It's certainly another career path which would bring her success, because she is a tremendously talented writer, able to paint sensory pictures in your mind's eye with her words. Of course, my snap reaction to this book, with its vivid, beautiful descriptions of complex gourmet dishes, comfort foods, fresh fruits and vegetables? Beyond wanting to gnaw the seat of the airline passenger in front of me (serves him right for trying to recline his seat back into my lap anyway), I loved the emotions and the ideas that this book conveyed. You can certainly see why Thielen has succeeded in her career, and it was enjoyable to read about her artist husband and how his dream of the cabin in the woods really inspired her life's work. They're certainly a remarkable pair! My one criticism of the book is the jumbled timeline—one second Thielen is working in New York, then she and Aaron are moving to Minnesota, then she's a teenager, then she's back in New York—at times it just got very confusing. But in the end, that's a small price to pay because the book is so compelling, so enjoyable, and so hunger-inducing. If you're fascinated by chef stories, if you're a foodie, or if you just to like to eat, pick up Give a Girl a Knife. And have some food nearby!! See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....

  2. 5 out of 5

    Crystal King

    What a fantastic food memoir! I loved every page of this delectable dive into Theilen's journey as she navigated the world of cooking starting in the middle of nowhere and landing in the midst of one of the busiest cities in the world then retreating once more to the rural life where she began. What runs through this book is her true, genuine love of the craft of preparing and discovering food and flavors and memorable dishes. She's a brilliant writer, able to make images and sensations immediat What a fantastic food memoir! I loved every page of this delectable dive into Theilen's journey as she navigated the world of cooking starting in the middle of nowhere and landing in the midst of one of the busiest cities in the world then retreating once more to the rural life where she began. What runs through this book is her true, genuine love of the craft of preparing and discovering food and flavors and memorable dishes. She's a brilliant writer, able to make images and sensations immediately accessible and memorable. If you are a food lover this should be a must add to your TBR pile.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lorilin

    Amy Thielen is a popular chef, writer, and TV personality on Food Network's Heartland Table. She grew up in rural Minnesota but moved to New York in her 20s to work at various impressive fine-dining restaurants. After the birth of their son, she and her artist husband eventually moved back to Minnesota. In 2014, her cookbook, The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes, won the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Award in American Cooking. I have to be honest and say that, even after reading this Amy Thielen is a popular chef, writer, and TV personality on Food Network's Heartland Table. She grew up in rural Minnesota but moved to New York in her 20s to work at various impressive fine-dining restaurants. After the birth of their son, she and her artist husband eventually moved back to Minnesota. In 2014, her cookbook, The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes, won the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Award in American Cooking. I have to be honest and say that, even after reading this memoir and then flipping through her wildly popular cookbook, the food she makes doesn't sound very appetizing to me. That doesn't mean it's not good! I've never tried it. But I'm just not excited about deviled eggs and cheeseballs--no matter how much Thielen claims to have elevated the flavors. Still, Give a Girl a Knife is an interesting memoir. It's essentially divided into two sections. The first part focuses on the roughly ten years she she spent working as a line cook in New York. The second part is more personal and talks about her food memories at home--both her childhood home and her current home in Minnesota. I thought I was going to have a hard time getting through the second part of the book, just because the first part was so good, but actually it ended up being pretty great, too. Granted, there were a handful of slow moments--especially when Thielen talks about her childhood--but I really enjoyed the more current stories that included her husband, Aaron. He is definitely an intense artist-type, too, but he brings some balance and down-to-earth-ness to their story. The chapter called Old Five-and-Dimers, where Thielen explains how she and Aaron started dating, was one of my favorites for this reason. Ultimately, Give a Girl a Knife is an entertaining foodie memoir. It isn't as good as, say, Yes, Chef or 32 Yolks: From My Mother's Table to Working the Line (two of my favorite memoirs of all time), but I still found it solidly enjoyable. For sure worth a read. Thanks to Amazon Vine and Clarkson Potter for the ARC. See more of my book reviews at www.BugBugBooks.com.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Knight

    A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher Give a Girl a Knife is probably one of the most surprisingly entertaining books I've ever read. I was super curious about this book when I started it and I didn't expect to enjoy it so much that I would read it in one sitting. I loved how well written this book was and Amy was able to give a lot of great insight to restaurant kitchens. I actually learned a lot and learning new things is always something I'm looking for in non-fiction book. I als A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher Give a Girl a Knife is probably one of the most surprisingly entertaining books I've ever read. I was super curious about this book when I started it and I didn't expect to enjoy it so much that I would read it in one sitting. I loved how well written this book was and Amy was able to give a lot of great insight to restaurant kitchens. I actually learned a lot and learning new things is always something I'm looking for in non-fiction book. I also really appreciated how Amy talked about her experiences a women in a male dominated field. As a fellow Midwesterner, I was able to relate to Amy a lot and I wasn't expecting that. I really loved how Amy mixed her Midwest roots with her culinary skills. I thought reading about Amy's approach to food and how she builds her dishes was really fascinating and again, I learned a lot. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it has become an unexpected favorite of mine. It's very well written and educational in the most entertaining way. If you're looking for an awesome non-fiction read, I'd recommend grabbing a copy of Give a Girl A Knife.

  5. 4 out of 5

    The Suburban Eclectic

    I am not a big foodie, but a enjoy a good meal, and I love a good sip of tea and Give a Girl a Knife suggests an interesting tale as it follows Thielan’s path from a backwoods kitchen in the woods to New York’s finest kitchens. Sadly, I didn't learn much. I do not feel like I have learned anything about high-end restaurant kitchens nor anything substantial about Thielen. For a woman with an interesting route to chefdom, it provides little insight into her thoughts on how women deal with the intr I am not a big foodie, but a enjoy a good meal, and I love a good sip of tea and Give a Girl a Knife suggests an interesting tale as it follows Thielan’s path from a backwoods kitchen in the woods to New York’s finest kitchens. Sadly, I didn't learn much. I do not feel like I have learned anything about high-end restaurant kitchens nor anything substantial about Thielen. For a woman with an interesting route to chefdom, it provides little insight into her thoughts on how women deal with the intricacies of working within the male-dominated world of upscale kitchens. The writing was a little more plodding than I expected. Give a Girl a Knife lacks excitement and spice.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gwendolyn

    This is a really unusual memoir because it contains two distinct narratives. In one of them, Amy Thielen falls in love with a "back to nature" artist who has built a one-room cabin in the remote northern Midwestern woods. The cabin lacks plumbing or electricity, and it's winter for about 9 months out of the year. Amy happily joins her husband at the cabin and learns to survive with only the barest necessities. Generally, they live in the cabin Spring through Autumn and use the short growing seas This is a really unusual memoir because it contains two distinct narratives. In one of them, Amy Thielen falls in love with a "back to nature" artist who has built a one-room cabin in the remote northern Midwestern woods. The cabin lacks plumbing or electricity, and it's winter for about 9 months out of the year. Amy happily joins her husband at the cabin and learns to survive with only the barest necessities. Generally, they live in the cabin Spring through Autumn and use the short growing season to produce much of their own food. In the second narrative, Amy gets kitchen jobs at a series of very high-end restaurants in New York City. In this part of the book, we hear about 80+ hour work weeks and the difficulties of working on your feet all day to create fussy and delicious food from pristine ingredients. We've seen both of these stories before (city girl struggles to survive in the country and the making of a chef), but I've never seen them both in the same book. This was an interesting combination that I mostly enjoyed. I am still a bit confused as to who Amy Thielen really is and what she likes/wants to do with her life. I wish the book had spent a bit more time explaining how these two narratives can belong to the same person. Overall, though, I enjoyed this story, and it was very well written. Perhaps the real Thielen is primarily a writer.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robin Bonne

    Amy Thielen has vivid memories associated with food, and her mouthwatering descriptions kept me interested in her culinary journey. Just make sure you have plenty of snacks handy while reading, because you will get hungry.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

    If a book could crawl straight out of my soul I’m convinced it would be this book. It was already bound to top my favorite list- a Minnesota girl who fulfills her dream of becoming a chef? If ever I was convinced that somebody loved Minnesota more than I do- it is Amy Thielen. Her nostalgic chronicles of childhood in Minnesota and description of the changing seasons were painfully hard to read from the Florida heat. I loved Thielen’s close to home cooking, inspired by her heritage and whatever a If a book could crawl straight out of my soul I’m convinced it would be this book. It was already bound to top my favorite list- a Minnesota girl who fulfills her dream of becoming a chef? If ever I was convinced that somebody loved Minnesota more than I do- it is Amy Thielen. Her nostalgic chronicles of childhood in Minnesota and description of the changing seasons were painfully hard to read from the Florida heat. I loved Thielen’s close to home cooking, inspired by her heritage and whatever abundance happened to be sprouting from her backyard garden. Now I’m on a mission to perfect my pie crust, buy a bunch of canning supplies and find the Thielen family spaeztle recipe. This will be one of the few books I own and keep on my shelf. As one who won’t read a book twice unless it earns it- I see myself reading this over and over. Next time I’ll keep track of all my favorite quotes but for now, just this one I managed to stop and write down. “I’d forgotten about Minnesota-nice, too, but I come to a theory about it: The frigid winter wind supplies all the honesty and directness the local population can stand. It knocks everyone’s sharp observations sideways. The weather is leaner than mean, and after a while, there’s nothing you can do but greet it with a shallow smile.”

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tavia

    I received this book free through Goodreads Giveaways. I thought I'd like this book more than I did, as I am also from rural Minnesota and moved to a big city (not NYC, but still). I just thought it was lacking. I enjoyed the NYC kitchen parts the best and once they were done after the first half of the book, I kept hoping she'd revisit her work. Amy Thielen is a good writer and this is a fine piece of work, it just wasn't that interesting to me. After I finished the book, I found out she had a I received this book free through Goodreads Giveaways. I thought I'd like this book more than I did, as I am also from rural Minnesota and moved to a big city (not NYC, but still). I just thought it was lacking. I enjoyed the NYC kitchen parts the best and once they were done after the first half of the book, I kept hoping she'd revisit her work. Amy Thielen is a good writer and this is a fine piece of work, it just wasn't that interesting to me. After I finished the book, I found out she had a cooking show on Food Network. Why wasn't any of that included in the book?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Candice

    I completely loved this book. Along the lines of Ruth Reichl and other foodie books, Amy has mastered the art of descriptive writing. I read sentences aloud to my husband because the details were making my mouth water. See my full review on my blog.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Melodie Winawer

    Not just another chefs memoir, but A paean to The beauty of food, the complexity of family, and the ineluctable pull place of origin.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    DNF - stopping around the halfway point. I wasn't finding Thielen's life story, her use of language, or her descriptions of food and restaurants very interesting.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chessa

    Loved the first third and the last third - didn’t love the middle third - so that evens out to be about 4 stars. 😉

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    I really enjoyed reading about her time navigating the Manhattan line cook world, and her life in Minnesota was definitely intriguing, but there was a tendency to simply repeat stories from earlier in the book, instead of just simple callbacks, which got wearisome. Those constant repetitive stories took this from 4 stars to 3.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Audiogirl.booking.it

    I picked this book up to satisfy a challenge I am doing in a Goodreads group. Foodie memoirs are not something that I would normally pick. I am pretty sure its the first Foodie Memoir I have ever read I am not much of a cook or much of a foodie lol I mean I like to eat just nothing too fancy. BUT I was pleasantly surprised that I liked it probably a 3.5 star book and kept my attention. Although spoiler alert the last part of book almost made me want to go Vegetarian... lol a little too graphic w I picked this book up to satisfy a challenge I am doing in a Goodreads group. Foodie memoirs are not something that I would normally pick. I am pretty sure its the first Foodie Memoir I have ever read I am not much of a cook or much of a foodie lol I mean I like to eat just nothing too fancy. BUT I was pleasantly surprised that I liked it probably a 3.5 star book and kept my attention. Although spoiler alert the last part of book almost made me want to go Vegetarian... lol a little too graphic with the meat food prep. But I really did enjoy Amy's stories she added a great voice to her tales and a lot of charm. ********************************* Instagram -- Audiogirl.booking.it

  16. 5 out of 5

    Angie Simmonds

    Maybe it's me. I didn't hate the book, it was just okay. Amy Thielen's memoir Give a Girl a Knife is about a north central Minnesota woman whose love for cooking has her splitting her time between Park Rapids, Minnesota home cooking and crazy fast assembly line New York gourmet. Each one pulled her for different reasons but none of them were compelling enough for me to read for any more than small bursts at a time. And the most disappointing thing about this book? NO RECIPES!! Who writes a food Maybe it's me. I didn't hate the book, it was just okay. Amy Thielen's memoir Give a Girl a Knife is about a north central Minnesota woman whose love for cooking has her splitting her time between Park Rapids, Minnesota home cooking and crazy fast assembly line New York gourmet. Each one pulled her for different reasons but none of them were compelling enough for me to read for any more than small bursts at a time. And the most disappointing thing about this book? NO RECIPES!! Who writes a food book and doesn't include recipes?? 2 stars on this one

  17. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    So fun! My only critique would be the bouncing around in time, I would have liked it to be more linear. Regardless, her descriptions of food made my mouth water (perhaps with the exception of making head cheese), and their house in the woods became almost another character in her story, she described it so well. Very enjoyable read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    B

    Listen, man, I wanted to talk about the NYC food world: the helter skelter of it, the curses and the drugs and the late nights. Basically, I had hoped Amy Thielen would give me the female version of what Anthony Bourdain delivered in Kitchen Confidential. It's no secret that women in the back of the restaurant deal with rampant sexism, aggression, and stark wage difference. I wanted Thielen to unpack that. She had spent a friggin' decade working in some of the best kitchens in the city... wouldn Listen, man, I wanted to talk about the NYC food world: the helter skelter of it, the curses and the drugs and the late nights. Basically, I had hoped Amy Thielen would give me the female version of what Anthony Bourdain delivered in Kitchen Confidential. It's no secret that women in the back of the restaurant deal with rampant sexism, aggression, and stark wage difference. I wanted Thielen to unpack that. She had spent a friggin' decade working in some of the best kitchens in the city... wouldn't she have some shit to shovel? If she does, she Febreezed the crap out of it and left it alone. Give a Girl a Knife is more a personal journey story than a discussion on the craft of cooking. The book should really be called Give a Girl a Pen and Maybe She'll Tell You About Food but Mostly She'll Talk About Her Husband. Is that too harsh? I guess maybe I'm a little sorry. The book was fine, even good at times. But she starts us in the exciting throes of NYC, only to walk us all the way back to her childhood halfway through. Then we're forced to sit through her entire growing up and her and husband Aaron's life in their no-electricity cabin. Honestly, I sometimes got confused where we were in her timeline, because she jumped back and forth a few times and didn't exactly give us time markers for orientation. At the end of the day we have an okay memoir about a woman who also happened to be a chef at one time. Now, who out there is going to bubble to the top and give us the goods?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alex Thomas

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book is broken into four sections; the first section sets up who the author is, she tells you just enough about her Minnesota upbringing, and rural living with her boyfriend, before launching into their decision to move to New York to pursue their separate careers (she, culinary school and eventually being a chef, and he, art/sculpture). I was so taken with this section! I found her account of working in famous New York kitchens from the turn-of-the-millennium fascinating! Then came section This book is broken into four sections; the first section sets up who the author is, she tells you just enough about her Minnesota upbringing, and rural living with her boyfriend, before launching into their decision to move to New York to pursue their separate careers (she, culinary school and eventually being a chef, and he, art/sculpture). I was so taken with this section! I found her account of working in famous New York kitchens from the turn-of-the-millennium fascinating! Then came section two. This immediately takes us back to her childhood, and this and the following section continue in this way building up to the point before her and her partner move to New York. These sections are admittedly interesting, but feel like a different book. They are still in some way about food, and are peppered with stories and anecdotes about the women in her family's commitment to food, and the way in brings people together. Finally, in the fourth section we come back to her life in New York! The author and her partner continue to flip-flop between Minnesota and New York, she eventually becomes pregnant, and they seem to after more back-and-forth, end up in Minnesota. I can see some archetypal messages in the story that's been told, but ultimately I feel like the did a lot of meandering, and I didn't necessarily get out of it what I thought I would.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    "Cities collect culture, but it all begins in the country." Maybe it's because I grew up in a house that smells like bacon from Thielen Meats on Sunday. Maybe it's because this will be the first Memorial Day in my memory I'm unable to head north to my grandparents' cabin, so Amy's musing on reused ice cream pails made me tear up and call my mom. Maybe it's because I'm itching to get my hands in the soil this week and finish planting my garden. Maybe it's because I live in a city with 125,000 othe "Cities collect culture, but it all begins in the country." Maybe it's because I grew up in a house that smells like bacon from Thielen Meats on Sunday. Maybe it's because this will be the first Memorial Day in my memory I'm unable to head north to my grandparents' cabin, so Amy's musing on reused ice cream pails made me tear up and call my mom. Maybe it's because I'm itching to get my hands in the soil this week and finish planting my garden. Maybe it's because I live in a city with 125,000 other folk but dream of starting a homestead, or at least take a winding Canadian road trip. Maybe it's because Amy is just so damn likeable. I don't care why, but I do know I absolutely savored this book. I recommend it for misplaced Minnesotans, fans of food writers, readers of family sagas alike.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Geisen

    A delightful read! Amy's descriptive writing is superb - taste, texture, color, smell. I got hungry every time I read a passage about her cooking. I enjoyed being taken behind-the-scenes of New York City's fanciest restaurants and also the places I already love and know: northern Minnesota. Amy has a great sense of humor. I'm tickled that she shared her creative struggles and successes with us admiring readers.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    For some reason, this isn’t keeping my attention right now. I might try it again another time.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey

    I love cooking memoirs. And this one was no exception. Beautifully written.

  24. 5 out of 5

    chsmiley

    I hadn't heard of Amy Thielen before starting this book, but I was interested in reading a memoir by a Minnesota author. The book chronicles her journey from Minnesota to becoming a chef at upscale restaurants in New York. It then delves into her childhood and teens in small town Minnesota as well as her decision to move to the woods of rural Minnesota with her husband to build a homestead there. The first part started out really interesting and I enjoyed getting a behind-the-scenes look into New I hadn't heard of Amy Thielen before starting this book, but I was interested in reading a memoir by a Minnesota author. The book chronicles her journey from Minnesota to becoming a chef at upscale restaurants in New York. It then delves into her childhood and teens in small town Minnesota as well as her decision to move to the woods of rural Minnesota with her husband to build a homestead there. The first part started out really interesting and I enjoyed getting a behind-the-scenes look into New York's fine dining scene, especially from the perspective of a young Minnesota woman trying to break into that world. The remaining sections of the book just drag on with some high points here and there. Most of the encounters she details in rural Minnesota are anticlimactic and not much more interesting than the weird little things that happen to me in the course of a day - certainly nothing to write a book about. The whole book felt Minnesota nice. There were few confrontations or questions asked. Her parents' divorce was talked about in painstaking detail yet she never bothered to ask them why they divorced (even as she's writing the book). We spend pages hearing about her plans for these pig ears and feet she's been cooking all day then her husband walks into the kitchen, pulls them off the stove, and dumps them in the yard and she just plops down in the rocking chair (oh well)?? Finally, I was surprised to learn that she was a Food Network star and had written a popular cookbook. Why wasn't any of this in the memoir? Those stories would have been way more interesting than the pages and pages devoted to waiting for her tomatoes to ripen.

  25. 5 out of 5

    tinabel

    Though it's nonfiction, Give A Girl A Knife was an interesting sister read to Stephanie Danler's debut novel, Sweetbitter, which I read only weeks before finally picking up Amy Thielen's compelling and beautifully written food memoir. At thirty-some-odd-years Thielen chronicles her life thus far through the lens of family and food—beginning with her childhood, filled with her grandmother and mother's unique German-meets-Midwestern food, and eventually, moving from college to a small, off-the-grid Though it's nonfiction, Give A Girl A Knife was an interesting sister read to Stephanie Danler's debut novel, Sweetbitter, which I read only weeks before finally picking up Amy Thielen's compelling and beautifully written food memoir. At thirty-some-odd-years Thielen chronicles her life thus far through the lens of family and food—beginning with her childhood, filled with her grandmother and mother's unique German-meets-Midwestern food, and eventually, moving from college to a small, off-the-grid cabin outside her hometown in rural Minnesota; to culinary school in New York City, working in high-end restos; and back to the much-improved cabin in the woods. Readers who enjoy food writing, the inner workings of fast-paced, high-flying NYC restaurants, and down home Midwestern cooking with culinary chops will find lots to love here. By far, my favourite passages were of her early days in that tiny cabin with no running water. Those which recounted the simple pleasures of learning to harvest and cook the fruits and vegetables they grew in their garden, and letting these be the inspiration for her cooking. While there were a few niggling issues with chronology (passages that felt repeated), I greatly enjoyed Give A Girl A Knife, and was even inspired in the kitchen whilst reading it. (I can even make a mean Hotdish now!) One last thing—Thielen and her publishing team really nailed both the title and cover. This may be one of my favourite cover treatments ever.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Urbandale Library

    In recent years, I've become a fan of chef memoirs. Amy Thielen's "Give a Girl a Knife" is no exception -- until it becomes an exception. Theilen was an English major, and she knows how to write an anecdote and describe food. For example she captures perfectly the reverence of two line cooks discussing girlfriend built sandwiches and the meaning they carry: "I can't believe she fried you a sandwich," says one. "I know (says the other), according to Thielen "blinking back emotion." Unlike the test In recent years, I've become a fan of chef memoirs. Amy Thielen's "Give a Girl a Knife" is no exception -- until it becomes an exception. Theilen was an English major, and she knows how to write an anecdote and describe food. For example she captures perfectly the reverence of two line cooks discussing girlfriend built sandwiches and the meaning they carry: "I can't believe she fried you a sandwich," says one. "I know (says the other), according to Thielen "blinking back emotion." Unlike the testosterone-fueled ultra-linear narratives of celebrity chefs, Thielen's book toggles back and forth in time and place, between New York, where she worked for super chefs David Bouley and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Northern Minnesota, where she grew up, from which she escaped ("I grew up knowing that not only nothing extraordinary was expected of me, but that it was, in face, gently discouraged."), and then returned to live in an off-the-grid cabin during the summers to eat out of the garden. Her culinary epiphanies in both locations are riveting, as are her memories of her mother's butter-fueled German-American masterpieces. In between these toggles, you begin to see Thielen's own point of view emerge, a hybrid the obsessive distillations of fine dining and the earthy discipline of cooking what you have that became the foundation of her Beard Award winning cookbook, "The New Midwestern Table."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Periodic

    I took this book out from the library because my wife was getting tattooed by a woman who loves knives and I needed something to read. I figured it was fate? Kind of? I started reading it without reading the description at all. I do impulsive things like that sometimes. This time it worked out for the better. It was not the story of a femme fatale as I had originally hoped...Give a Girl a Knife is the memoir of a chef who lived the interesting life of a migrant. She spent the summers of her 20s I took this book out from the library because my wife was getting tattooed by a woman who loves knives and I needed something to read. I figured it was fate? Kind of? I started reading it without reading the description at all. I do impulsive things like that sometimes. This time it worked out for the better. It was not the story of a femme fatale as I had originally hoped...Give a Girl a Knife is the memoir of a chef who lived the interesting life of a migrant. She spent the summers of her 20s in a Minnesota hovel with no running water or electricity (?!?! what?!?!) and the rest of the year in some of the most fancy pants kitchens in NYC. I'm impressed with her resilience and, even though I had never heard of her before, I'm kind of excited to check her cookbook out from the library as well.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lynne Dana

    The best part about this book was the writing. She tells her story with self-depreciating wit and honesty. I thought the way she jumped around chronologically could have been done better, maybe with flashbacks to rural MN during her NYC time? Ironically enough, I liked the parts of the book most that had nothing to do with her cooking but maybe that is because fancy cooking in expensive NYC restaurants is just not interesting to me. There also seemed to be a disconnect between her life and that The best part about this book was the writing. She tells her story with self-depreciating wit and honesty. I thought the way she jumped around chronologically could have been done better, maybe with flashbacks to rural MN during her NYC time? Ironically enough, I liked the parts of the book most that had nothing to do with her cooking but maybe that is because fancy cooking in expensive NYC restaurants is just not interesting to me. There also seemed to be a disconnect between her life and that of her partner (who became her husband). If I hadn’t known they were still married by reading about the author I would have predicted that they didn’t stay together. I did feel that by the end I got a bit of a better idea as to his character and their relationship—sort of. Overall, I would rate this close to a 3.5.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This book made my Minnesota heart so happy. I found Amy Thielen's experiences working in New York fine dining to be so interesting, but also her Northern Minnesota homesteading stories were equally fascinating. I especially appreciated her nods to endearing Midwest idiosyncrasies (e.g. I laughed out loud reading her ode to the industrious multi-purpose Kemp's ice cream family size buckets found en masse at pot lucks). She so thoughtfully articulated how you can love your dazzling city life while This book made my Minnesota heart so happy. I found Amy Thielen's experiences working in New York fine dining to be so interesting, but also her Northern Minnesota homesteading stories were equally fascinating. I especially appreciated her nods to endearing Midwest idiosyncrasies (e.g. I laughed out loud reading her ode to the industrious multi-purpose Kemp's ice cream family size buckets found en masse at pot lucks). She so thoughtfully articulated how you can love your dazzling city life while also wanting to retreat to a quiet, measured Midwest life. All this to say, I enjoyed this lovely food memoir and I look forward to reading her cookbook.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Krysten

    the most exciting thing to me about this book was the familiarity. Amy Thielen is from Minnesota, studied English at a small private school, procrastinated on her future career, lived *in my neighborhood* for a while, and went to culinary school. THIS IS RELATABLE CONTENT for me. the time jumps in the book confused me a little, but it wasn't too bad. just a nice little foray into a life that's kinda sorta like mine. now I really want to move to the woods.

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