Book Review: Poor Man’s Feast –A Story of Love, Desire and the Simple Art of Cooking by Elissa Altman

Poor Man's FeastI’m a big lover of food, finding great joy just puttering in my kitchen with a pot roast in my slow cooker and making and baking a couple dozen of my buttermilk cheesy biscuits.

I’m also a big lover of memoirs of all kinds, thoroughly enjoying the stories of people from all walks of life with interesting stories to tell.

So I was pretty thrilled to find Poor Man’s Feast by food blogger Elissa Altman. Would Poor Man’s Feast be a fully-satisfying literary meal or would it leave me hungry for more?

The answer? Well, both.

Altman is a native New Yorker, and throughout Poor Man’s Feast she never lets you forget it. Her love of food is something she shared with her father, and it was how these two bonded as parent and child.

On the other hand, there was Altman’s mother, a total glamour puss who didn’t just disdain food and refrain from eating; she actually seemed to fear food and her own appetite.

Once Altman got older she refines her love of food by working at Dean and Deluca (hmm, just like Felicity), working throughout various departments and spending a big part of her paycheck on Dean and Deluca’s culinary delights. Dean and Deluca is a touchstone for Altman, one she harkens back to throughout Poor Man’s Feast.

Altman also comes to terms with being a lesbian and Poor Man’s Feast focuses a great deal on her relationship with Susan, a woman who would become the love her life.

On paper, Altman and Susan couldn’t seem more different. Whereas Altman is a sophisticated city slicker, with a finely-tuned taste and palate only a place like New York City could offer (yeah, right—Milwaukee has just been named a great food town), Susan is a small-town gal whose love of food is too low class for the likes of Altman.

And it was these aspects of Poor Man’s Feast that left me unsatisfied. Though Altman tells us of her love for Susan, she never really seems to show it. Altman, at turns, is dismissive of Susan and her family, and their less sophisticated lives and food choices. Perhaps, Altman’s dryer than baking powder humor was supposed to be witty but I found it way too sarcastic and not funny at all. Only as Poor Man’s Feast come to a close did I truly feel Altman’s love for Susan and her growing acceptance of Susan’s family and their plebian taste in food.

Perhaps I would have liked Poor Man’s Feast better if Altman would have focused more on her relationship with her father and how they bonded over their love of all things food. It was these lovingly-written passages that truly touched my heart and made my mouth water with beautifully written