What would it be like to have grown up in a restaurant? Every night you put on your pretty dress, sit down at your special table, sip your Shirley Temple, and anticipate being served by an ever-changing wait staff. Meanwhile your parents are in the kitchen cooking for hundreds.
I grew up rich. The setting—or stage set—of my childhood was the velvety pink-and-green dining room of my mother's restaurant, Upstairs at the Pudding, located above the Hasty Pudding Club in a red-brick Victorian building at 10 Holyoke Street in Harvard Square. My life was not a child's life of jungle gyms and Velcro sneakers, but of soft lighting, stiff petticoats, rolling pins smothered in flour, and candied violets in wax paper. It was a life of manners, of air kisses, of "How do you dos," and a life for which I needed six party dresses a year, three every spring and three every winter. We were rich. Everybody knew it.—Charlotte au Chocolat: Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood, by Charlotte Silver (Riverhead Books 2012; quote is from uncorrected proofs)
Yet we were not; we were not rich at all. For as long as I could remember, the restaurant had tottered on the brink of collapse. I always knew we would lose it one day. And we did lose it; we did. (p. 1)
- Setting: Cambridge, Mass., and environs
- Characters: Charlotte Silver, her family, and assorted waiters and kitchen staff; the rich and famous make cameos
- Main theme: Loving tribute to her mother and the sacrifices she made to keep restaurant and family running
- Other themes: Food and drink, family, manners, times gone by
- Genre: Memoir