There's a difficult scene in toward the beginning of Candace Walsh's memoir, Licking The Spoon, where five-year-old Walsh is essentially force-fed her dinner amidst tears, gagging, and vomit. This particularly heartbreaking image propelled me back to my own memories of sitting at my childhood dinner table, locked in a fierce battle between myself, my father, and food. Walsh's tantalizing descriptions of both the recipes and people in her life help pull the reader into a story that's a perfect mix of memoir and indulgent foodie read. I spoke with Walsh about the challenges of writing a memoir, the notion of choosing our own families, and the erotic potential of food.
What compelled you to write a memoir in your forties? It's a relatively young age.
CANDACE WALSH: I was very influenced by Anais Nin, who kept a diary her entire life. I also kept a diary from childhood through my early twenties. I saw that I had lots of material. I had a consciousness of the narrative as it unfolded. It seemed to have an arc. I also didn't want to wait because I felt like the story elements were fresh in my mind now, in a way that they wouldn't be when I was, say, 65.
There's that axiom that can be seen as a curse: "May you live in interesting times." I had to overcome a lot of challenges. My parents were young and didn't have their acts together. There was a lot of addiction, rage, dysfunction, sadness and pain in my family during my childhood. But at the same time, as I grew up, the culture was shifting. People started telling the truth about their experiences, instead of keeping silent and perpetuating them. There have also been so many epic civil rights gains for gay people in the last 20 years. So I felt that I had a personal story to tell which highlights the relationship between those dynamics.