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Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family
Adventures of a Restaurant Family


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Patricia Volk is the author of the novel White Light and two collections of short stories, All It Takes and The Yellow Banana. She has published stories, book reviews, and essays in dozens of magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, New York, The New Yorker, Playboy, Redbook, GQ, Parents, and O, the Oprah Magazine. She was a weekly columnist for New York Newsday, and she lives in New York City.

Photo (c) Marion Ettlinger

In a restaurant family, you’re never just hungry—you’re starving to death. And you’re never full—you’re stuffed.

Patricia Volk’s family is as American (background: Austrian-Jewish) as “Rhapsody in Blue.” They came to these shores determined to make their mark; each of them is a piquant morsel of history. Great-grandfather Sussman Volk brought pastrami to the New World. Grandfather Jacob was known as “the Most Destructive Force on Wall Street” and was memorialized by E. B. White as “the greatest wrecker of all time” for his innovative method of demolition. Uncle Albert was the first man to stir scallions into cream cheese. The last of Grandfather Herman Morgen’s fourteen restaurants was a famous garment center hangout. One grandmother won the 1916 trophy for “Best Legs in Atlantic City.” The other was a three-hundred-pound calendar girl. Ms. Volk’s handsome, demanding restaurateur father invented the Six-color Retractable Pen and Pencil Set and the Double-sided Cigarette Lighter (so you never have to worry which end is up). For three generations, just about every Volk and Morgen (with the exception of Uncle Al, who had an eleven-year affair with Aunt Lil and then refused to marry her because she wasn’t a virgin) has, no matter what the circumstances, exhibited a terrifyingly positive attitude. With a cosmic disdain for the status quo, all of them—the tyrants, do-gooders, lovers, martyrs, and fakes—lived at full tilt.

Stuffed is a wildly funny yet unsparing look at how families work.

"Novelist/essayist Volk pens a stylishly written memoir that's really a series of portraits of the memorable characters who make up her extended family . . . one beguiling vignette after another, and a good number of welcome reprises. Volk's classy prose, as smooth on its wheels as a Bentley, makes it work like a wonder. . . . Emotionally luxurious and heart-gladdening." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Toward the end of STUFFED, my reading slowed to a crawl. I hated to let go of a single vivid, funny, occasionally misguided but always big-hearted member of this great New York family. Like the best novelists, Patricia Volk gives us an entire world." –Frances Kiernan, author of Seeing Mary Plain : A Life of Mary McCarthy

"This remarkable memoir is more than just the food flavors of Patricia Volk's childhood growing up in a restaurant family in New York. It is chock full of the flavors of growing up in Middle Class America–I laughed, I cried, it is a treat!"
–Joan Nathan, author of The Foods of Israel Today

"This funny, heartbreaking book is good enough to eat. A whole lost world is conjured up here, with a vitality and love of daily life that has no time for sentimentality."
–Phillip Lopate

"What Marcel Proust did for the madeleine, Patricia Volk has achieved for Mattie's chocolate cake. This inspired journey through family history, like Proust's masterpiece, treats the reader to the re-creation of an era, with brilliantly observed details of dress, menu, manners, commerce and psychological mishigas. Cheers for Stuffed, a four star memoir."
–Sidney Offit, author of Memoir of the Bookie's Son

"A moving feast…Volk's life is an entertaining dinner party with hilarious guests around the table, and for the main course: the most beautiful and passionate account of a woman's love for her father that I have ever read."
–Jennifer Belle, author of High Maintenance

"Had I only known what was for dinner at Patty Volk's house, back when we were classmates at P.S. 9, I surely would have followed her home from school. STUFFED is a hilarious but fearless look at a fascinating family–a funny book that will break your heart."
–Eli Zabar

"Patricia Volk's family of restaurateurs are what they serve — too much and delicious. Stuffed with life themselves, they bustle around their own story as if they're perpetually late with the soup. We, in turn, could devour them forever. This book will become your favorite place to eat."
–Roger Rosenblatt

"Stuffed is a marvelously evocative portrait of a nearly lost New York sensibility. Reading it made me miss my grandmother and the lunch counters of my childhood. Patricia Volk's sharp, personal memoir is a celebration of family characters who could inhabit the fictions of Philip Roth or Saul Bellow. And like the very best sort of novel, Stuffed is both hilarious and deeply moving."
–Katharine Weber, author of Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear and The Music Lesson

"Every once in a while I like something better than anything. This once, this while, it is this book. No, not book, not book, but heart. Right this minute this is what I like better than anything–Volk's Nobel-prize-winning heart."
–Gordon Lish