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Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family    by Patricia Volk order for
by Patricia Volk
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Patricia Volk's delicious memoir invites the reader into her life, to be a part of her large, caring, crazy family. These are individuals who lived inside the bonds of family but outside the boundaries of society. It was a family that knew its own worth and lived accordingly. Infuriating at times, cold and merciless at others. And always full of the love that flourished in their midst.

The author is a member of the Volk family who for one hundred years fed New York City in one or other of their far-flung restaurants - where 'you're never just hungry, you're starving to death; and never just full you're stuffed.' Volk's great-grandfather introduced pastrami to America in 1888. One thing led to another and restaurants were born and thrived; one in the garment district of Manhattan finally closed its doors in 1988 after one hundred years of being the place to go to eat good food and have attention lavished on you.

The story of Patricia Volk's life is told in vignettes, chock full of memories of food and those in her family who cooked it. She talks of her father, who was beaten with a cat-of-nine-tails by his own father until he got big enough to defend himself. And of her grandmother, who pushed her children in their strollers at six in the morning before 'the air got used'! Slightly eccentric, always flamboyant, the Volk family lived a good life but always worked hard to achieve it.

Stuffed is raucously funny, endearing, at times very touching (the father's death from cancer is emotionally wrenching), and full of the joy of life.

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