Thursday, May 3, 2012

Book Review: Charlotte Au Chocolat

To a foodie, Charlotte Silver’s childhood might have seemed like a dream come true. The daughter of chefs, Charlotte grew up amongst the pots, pans, pink linen tablecloths, and sparkling chandeliers of Upstairs at the Pudding, an eclectic eatery in a Victorian building in Harvard Square. But in addition to dining on delicacies (her favorite dish was Smoked Pheasant and Roquefort Flan) and the many years spent inhaling the restaurant’s lavishness, there were the many days and nights Charlotte was left to her own devices while her workaholic mom was absorbed with the restaurant business and all its trials and tribulations.  
Ms. Silver's memoir of the decadence, the food, and the colorful characters in the front and back of the house is a delicious entree into the Harvard Square and its environs of the ‘70s and ‘80s. The restaurant and its theatrical atmosphere is definitely the supporting star of this story, but the true headliner is Deborah Hughes, Charlotte’s very glamorous, very driven mother.  Nicknamed “Patton in Pumps” by a staffer, this dynamo in and out of the kitchen singlehandedly saw to every aspect of the business, and still managed to impart lessons of style, manners, and dedication to her daughter. 

 It's not exactly Kitchen Confidential--perhaps with lots more meringue, whipped cream, caramel sauce, and a cherry on top--but it is a glimpse into the world of cheffing, told from a very different perspective. Like the sweet and fanciful confections the restaurant was known for, this is a light tale of a time that really no longer exists. And it is told in a rather wistful way that makes us wish it still did.

1 comment :