Mostly True . . . A Memoir of Family, Food and Baseball

Monday, April 6, 2009
Happy Opening day dear readers. Okay so I didn't actually know that today was Opening Day until someone told me (thanks Matt). And since baseball is the only sport I actually understand, I decided to read a baseball themed book today.

Today's book; "Former columnist for the New York Times and author of The New York Cookbook, O'Neill de-emphasizes the cooking element here in favor of cozy family gatherings around baseball games. Her memoir begins even before the courtship of her parents, minor leaguer "Chick" O'Neill and six-foot, convent-educated "Bootsie" Gwinn, in Columbus, Ohio, in 1945, and extends to younger brother Paul O'Neill's retirement as right-fielder for the Yankees in 2001. O'Neill meanders lovingly through years growing up as the eldest to five brothers who channeled their adolescent hormones into Little League. O'Neill records her first forays into cooking inspired by an Ohio Power and Electric Co. demonstration given for her Brownie troop; her brothers worshipped her for making dishes from Spam and processed cheese. In college, she secured jobs as a cook and took over the kitchen at Ciro's in Boston by 1979. Her cooking segued into writing, first for the Globe, then New York Newsday. By the time she became a restaurant critic for the Times in the early 1990s, younger brother Paul had been traded to the Yankees, bringing the whole unwieldy family to feast in New York. O'Neill charts a long-winded, pleasantly nostalgic trip."

For a book that has the word baseball in the title, this book didn't actually contain all that many references to baseball. There was a chapter that talked about the author's family's time spent at the local Little League. Ah Little League, that brings back memories; my Mother sitting in her lawn chair because she refused to sit on the dirty bleachers, my Sister and I sitting on the giant powder blue blanket my Mother brought for us while playing with the ridiculous amounts of stuff we brought along (coloring books, crayons, toys, books, and for reasons which I still don't understand, a calculator), my Grandma in the background screaming "GO BABY, GO BABY, GO BABY" at the top of her lungs every time my brother was up at bat, while my Sister is trying to convince my Dad to order her a hot dog without the actual hot dog from the concession stand while my Dad stands there saying, "You want me to go up and order a hot dog bun with nothing on it from the concession stand? They're going to think I'm crazy" Ah, good times.

Despite the lack of expected baseball moments, there were a few other interesting parts of the book (although not many). Since the book wasn't all the interesting, I'm just going to list the interesting parts here so you can save yourself the trouble of having to read the book:

  • When the author was a baby her Grandmother put sugar, cream and rum in her baby bottle. (The fact that this was one of the more interesting aspects of the book should give you a pretty good idea of how dull the book really was).

  • I was amused by the part of the book where the author describes her family driving around town pointing out all the things other people are doing wrong with their houses/yards/lives. My parents did this quite frequently when we were children - although they never needed to leave the house to manage it. They would sit in the living room and say things like, "Everyone knows that's not the right way to. . . . (fill in the blank with dress/talk/live/be married/raise kids/work, whatever it was they disapproved of at the time). Which led to me occasionally referring to them as "The Council for Appropriate Behavior" - a phrase my Mother was definitely not amused by - but then she's rarely ever amused by me. They would be sitting in the living room, with my Mother laying out all the reasons why the offending behavior, with my Dad acting as Vice President of the when my Sister would attempt to walk into the room and I would whisper the warning, "Don't go in that room, The Council For Appropriate Behavior is having a meet. Mom's just about to lay out the acceptable alternatives. There are three critical steps to a CFAB meeting; 1. discussing in detail why the behavior in question is wrong, 2. laying out the acceptable alternatives (for instance, "I mean, it would be different if they had just moved in, but they've lived there for six years and they still haven't planted any flowers around the house."), and 3. recapping once again why the behavior is wrong. (Okay, I lied, I actually didn't find that part of the book interesting, I just wanted an excuse to use that Council for Appropriate Behavior anecdote).

  • And here was my favorite line from the book; "I do not recall a single moment of my childhood in which I was not imagining my family's life - or my own- as an epic tale."

So there you have it dear readers, those were the only parts of the book I found interesting.