Review: Hungry by Darlene Barnes

I’m happy to be a part of the blog tour for Darlene Barnes’s Hungry. Thanks to TLC Book Tours for supplying me with a review copy. This tour began August 5 and finishes up September 14; be sure to check out the complete tour schedule and read the reviews posted on other stops!

GIVEAWAY: Thanks to the publisher, one lucky reader (US/Canada only) will win a copy of Hungry. Enter to win below! The contest will end Friday night at 11:59 pm (CST).

Title: Hungry
Author: Darlene Barnes
Publisher: Hyperion
Released: August 6, 2013
Source: publisher (NetGalley)

Synopsis (from TLC Book Tours):

Newly arrived in Seattle, Darlene Barnes stumbles on a job ad for a cook at the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity on the University of Washington campus, a prospect most serious food professionals would automatically reject. But Barnes envisions something other than kegs and corn dogs; she sees an opportunity to bring fresh, real food to an audience accustomed to “Asian Surprise” and other unidentifiable casseroles dropped off by a catering service. And she also sees a chance to reinvent herself, by turning a maligned job into meaningful work of her own creation: “I was the new girl and didn’t know or care about the rules.”

Naively expecting a universally appreciative audience, Barnes finds a more exasperatingly challenging environment: The kitchen is nasty, the basement is scary, and the customers are not always cooperative. Undaunted, she gives as good as she gets with these foul-mouthed and irreverent—but also funny and sensitive—guys. Her passion for real food and her sharp tongue make her kitchen a magnet for the brothers, new recruits, and sorority girls tired of frozen dinners.

Laugh-out-loud funny and poignant, Hungry offers a female perspective on the real lives of young men, tells a tale of a woman’s determined struggle to find purpose, and explores the many ways that food feeds us.

Since Hungry is a book about Darlene Barnes’s experiences as a fraternity cook, there are some hilarious examples of the type of stories you’d expect from a job like this. The book is deeper than that, though. I was struck by what an important part of their family she became, and found many of her stories incredibly touching. And beyond the personal stories, Hungry delves into the ins and outs of being a chef.

In the first couple of chapters, Barnes comes across a tad… opinionated? sanctimonious? … when it comes to food. I have to admit, it was kind of grating. But as I read on with a more open mind and warmed up to her personality, annoyance was replaced with respect and fondness. Darlene Barnes knows her stuff. She’s passionate about food, and she does her job with the utmost integrity.

Hungry isn’t about spouting off platitudes or legalistic views about “good food.” Barnes offers insights into her thought process as she navigates the changes she makes in the frat’s kitchen. She offers up easy changes anyone can make, and encourages readers to be more deliberate about their food choices.

There are recipes throughout the book! Sadly, I have minimal skills in the kitchen, but I would read these recipes and think, “Hmmm, that’s not so hard” or “Wow, I could totally do that!” Most recipes were pretty simple, useful (the salad dressings: so easy!), with ingredients easy enough to find.

Barnes doesn’t have an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to good food; instead, she shows us how small steps can lead to major changes. I felt empowered by the end of the book, and was even motivated to look for a good (and not overpriced) farmer’s market in my area (which was a success!).

Hungry is an inspiring, enjoyable memoir that will be of interest not only to foodies, but to anyone who would like to incorporate more fresh food into their lives.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.

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