Book Review: Hungry by Grace Dent

From Frazzles to Foie Gras: a memoir of wanting more.

From an early age, Grace Dent was hungry. As a little girl growing up in Currock, Carlisle, she yearned to be something bigger, to go somewhere better.

Hungry traces Grace’s story from growing up eating beige food to becoming one of the much-loved voices on the British food scene. It’s also everyone’s story – from treats with your nan, to cheese and pineapple hedgehogs, to the exquisite joy of cheaply-made apple crumble with custard. It’s the high-point of a chip butty covered in vinegar and too much salt in the school canteen, on an otherwise grey day of double-Maths and cross country running. It’s the real story of how we have all lived, laughed, and eaten over the past 40 years.
Warm, funny and joyous, Hungry is also about love and loss, the central role that food plays in all our lives, and how a Cadbury’s Fruit ‘n’ Nut in a hospital vending machine can brighten the toughest situation.

What I Thought:

Having first been introduced to Grace Dent via Masterchef on TV, there was work to do to catch up with her written work, but I have been a regular reader ever since. I guess because we are not that far apart in age, Grace’s experience growing up resonates with me – especially from a food point of view, so reading Hungry was a complete joy!

From ‘sketty’ at home, to chip butties and – oh dear god – ‘salads’ at school, there are so many memories wrapped up in the food we eat, and Grace is able to frame the periods of her life with these shared memories, all told with her trademark wry humour, but there are some incredibly emotional sections as her family deals with the emergence of strange behaviour from her Dad which they surmise is the onset of dementia.

It is in these passages of family connection that this memoir really stood out for me – Grace Dent’s literary side-eye might have made her name, but she writes so sensitively and honestly about what must have been a truly exhausting and saddening period of her life that I was really moved by it.

Although this is primarily a book about one woman’s life, there is so much in it that defines a generation – especially one that lived – gasp! – BEFORE THE INTERNET! It was a genuine pleasure to take a trip down my own memory lane as I read and I’d recommend it to all, but particularly women of my age…

Hungry is published by Mudlark.

You can find Grace Dent’s column in The Guardian, and can catch up with her on Twitter.

Please note: I received a copy of this book for review via Netgalley. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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