The Ungarnished Truth: A Cooking Contest Memoir by Ellie Mathews
While it may sound like this will be yet another food memoir, this one isn’t really. It does talk about food, but not in the same retrospective way many food memoirs do. It’s much more of a look behind the curtain at cooking contests – from small ones to the biggest one of all, the Pillsbury Bake-Off.
I loved how self-aware Mathews was in her book, and how much she acknowledged the elements of timing at hitting on the right recipe at the right time in the competition.
It’s a very quick read, but there was a surprising amount of depth to it. Her comments about the changing nature of home cooking in America, and how it is reflecting in the contest itself (and especially in the winners) was more thoughtful than I expected when I began the book.
A woman, a chicken dinner, a million dollars-and a romp through the heartland of America’s competitive cooking culture.
When Ellie Mathews entered her Salsa Couscous Chicken in the venerable Pillsbury Bake-Off, she never imagined she’d win the grand prize. Immediately after Alex Trebek announced that her dish had won a million dollars, she was thrown into the limelight. Booked with Oprah and Rosie-even photographed for the New York Times in a vest made of ostrich feathers-she instantly became the reigning queen of chickendom, the Pillsbury “It Girl” of the moment.
With a dash of self-deprecating humor and a pinch of biting social commentary, Ellie takes readers on her roller coaster ride to the top of the food chain as the Pillsbury prizewinner. As a cooking contest insider, she goes behind the counter and beyond the aprons and oven mitts to reveal a fascinating slice of Americana.
I’ve listed lots of food memoir options before, such as in the post for My Berlin Kitchen. I don’t know of any others with the same emphasis on cooking contests however. Mathews has written one of my favorite young adult books, The Linden Tree, (previously mentioned as one of my favorite historical fiction books for kids), but it’s a completely different sort of book. She also wrote Ambassador to the Penguins: A Naturalist’s Year Aboard a Yankee Whaleship but I haven’t read it so can’t speak to how good it is. I’m quite tempted by it though!
To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction, go to the series page.
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