About

I’m the author of six novels, including “The Epicure’s Lament,” the PEN/Faulkner award-winning “The Great Man,” and “The Astral.” I am a cook of the improvisational, what’s-in-the-cupboard school, which is also, possibly not coincidentally, my strategy with writing. Just as the ingredients at hand can dictate a dish, the characters who arise in my imagination and are set in motion at the beginning of a novel can dictate its plot, tone, and themes.  It’s crucial to both enterprises to keep on hand excellent spices, oils, and produce.

I was raised in Berkeley in the 1960s, long before the Bay Area became the American locavore/foodie mecca; we moved to Arizona in 1970, back when it was a cultural desert, pun fully intended. My favorite childhood dinner was hot dogs, “creamy corn,” and boiled carrot coins with margarine. In 1980, after graduation from Green Meadow Waldorf School, I lived and worked as an au pair girl for a year near the town of Moulins, in the Allier district of France, where I learned to make mousse au chocolat and rabbit stew and discovered cheese, butter, and wine. At Reed College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, I regressed out of economic necessity to Top Ramen, hamburgers, and bean burritos. But then I moved to New York City in 1989, where I discovered the writings of MFK Fisher, learned to eat well, and began to realize my lifelong passion, both literary and culinary, for food.

I now live in Portland, Maine and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I write an occasional drink column for the Wall Street Journal called “With a Twist” as well as a bi-monthly column for Medium.com called “Food Stuff: the Elements of Eating.” My food memoir, Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites, which originated from this blog, will be published by Doubleday in July 2013. I am also currently collaborating with Barbara Lynch, the Boston chef, on her memoir.

57 Responses to About

  1. I love what you write. I can see and even feel some of the things you write about, although I have never been to Maine, human experiences everywhere are compelling. I am in Sydney, Australia and saw that Max Sharam loves you Blog so thought I would take a look…..well worth the read!! Oh and yes I am among many personas a Pilates instructor and am very lucky to have a Reformer for client use in my Studio in Sydney near Manly Beach……which you are welcome to check out if ever in Sydney

  2. Deb Helmer says:

    I’m hooked….on your writing and your recipes. Amazing!!!!

  3. Amrita says:

    I read and then I re-read your posts. And I’m reading them again now! And I’m pretty sure I’ll be re-reading everything all over again pretty soon. I know I’m starting to sound creepy but then you do write beautifully. :-)

  4. evy says:

    Thank you much for a great blog. Great writing.

    • tim thompson says:

      Kate…think we have much in common, big surprise…live on Nantucket,love to cook and consume too much wine…bring a friend this fall and let’s hang out…good friends with Nancy Thayer…hate the internet and all its derivatives

  5. Elise says:

    I was wondering when you moved to Portland? Last I knew you were in Brooklyn.
    I live in Portland too. I had to laugh at your description of steak tartare consumed here.
    And just to be creepy, I live in Portland too… and I’m a fan. But not a stalk-y type of fan.

  6. Ilke says:

    Just wanted to say thank you for a refreshing food/writing blog. I enjoy reading your posts and looking forward to the next ones. And I completely understand wanting to tear down the kitchen or other things in the new house and make it your own :)

  7. May Paddock says:

    I’d like to get in touch with you, but I don’t know how. I thought The Astral was terrific!

  8. Kenneth Roberts says:

    You nailed it on the clam chowder in today’s NYT. I hate goopy thick clam chowder. Strangely, the best item that my local rinky dink sloped floor market in NJ stocks is 12 to a package cherry stones. What a happy accident! Every time I run into the lady that runs the department I beg her not to change suppliers. Spread the word. No more goopy chowder.

  9. Bruce A. King; life time savor of bivalves says:

    Kate,
    I am a non-fiction reader so i am unfamiliar with your other fictional work. Sunday, July 29th a short, must be story, was published in the NYT Book Review section on How to Cook a Clam. As a new resident of Maine, i assume sea coast, you need to complete some research for cooking and eating bivalve delights. When i read your directions to a small group of other locals, Hampton Bays, NY (sea coast community) they all gasped with the same expression, “NO!!!!!!!” Just as the turkey is not rinsed in hot water after removal from the oven; the bivalve is not rinsed after steaming prior to insertion into ones mouth, dunking into melted butter is optional. The delightful liquid from the steaming of the bivalve is to be savored, consumed.

    • Yes indeed, Maine clams need a good rinse to get the grit off — the hot water should be the steaming water — and the beard has to be removed as well. And I will stick by my melted butter, which is essential, at least for Maine clams, although maybe NY clams don’t need it. I do hope my recipe for chowder elicits a more favorable response! Thanks so much for writing.

  10. sheila says:

    There seems to be a lot of discussion as to how to eat steamed clams. I’d like to weigh in with my experience on eating “steamers” the soft shell clam that is slightly oblong and has a long neck that protrudes out. After steaming open the clams, the broth that remains needs to be strained through cheesecloth to remove all the sand and grit. This becomes the dunking broth for the clam before it is dipped into melted butter, if you desire. The dunking broth is used to wash off any additonal sand without loosing the flavor of the clam broth.
    entertainingaddict.blogspot.com

    • Excellent advice — thank you so much!

      • Susan Cypert says:

        And I’m going to give you a heresy recipe where you don’t steam them at all. In Arizona, in Puerto Penasco near the Mexican Sea of Cortez, our clams are fat, juicy and not sandy. They can beat any clams back East, hands down. Wash em, toss em in a big pot of simmering Mexican beer like Dos Equis (the light) with some water and a very generous helping of Old Bay seasoning and simmer just until opened. Serve with beer broth and good butter and more Dos Equis!

  11. David D'Aprix says:

    Hello Ms. Christensen, I enjoyed your article in the Book Review of the New York Times this past Sunday (“How to Cook a Clam”).

    I would disagree with you on one point, the “classic” recipe for a New England chowder. Flour was never an ingredient in classic recipes. Potatoes provided all the thickness necessary. I am well aware of how chowders are now prepared–I travelled one summer from Isleboro, ME to Manhattan sampling chowders. But in Maine today there are still several delicious chowders make without flour. Your use of whole milk is accurate, although so many people now include heavy cream.

  12. Hello Kate,
    This is Lippy (Michael Lipman). I found your site through a reference in a recent Rosie Schaap NYT article.
    I am really GLAD I did! Your writing is at once gentle and fiery (how do you DO that?). Rosie mentioned that you are a tequila aficionado so I wanted to tell you about my live “Tequila Whisperer” video webcast: http://tequilawhisperer.com . We sure a have a raucous – but respectful approach to gourmet tequila tasting over at the show. Maybe you’d like to join us live some time?

    In any event I will be happily reading your work regularly from now on.
    SalUd,
    Lippy

  13. Jack Wood says:

    Happy Birthday!

  14. jlgabel says:

    It’s time I thanked you personally for your writing. As a subscriber to more than a few blogs, I’ve got to tell you that it’s a thrill to receive a notification when you, especially, have written something new. Your approach to food is refreshing. Keep it coming, please!

  15. Ann Tracy says:

    Hi Kate… it’s Ann, your Pilates mate…. just finished The Great Man and loved it and am wondering if any options are out on it… I think a hefty slice of it would make a wonderful play with great parts for older women, which are sorely lacking these days… would love to talk to you about it either after Pilates or another time….

  16. Lisa Sinicki says:

    Hi Kate,
    I love your writing. How can I get in touch with you?

  17. Jeff Wood says:

    Hey Kate Christensen – Jeff Wood here. Long time no. Wanted to say hello! Send me an email if yer inclined and got time. All the best!

  18. Catherine George says:

    I’m in the midst of reading Jeremy Thane, your first book for me. It starts off good and gets better by the page. Other than three months in 1949, I’ve never spent time in New York but that doesn’t make a bit of difference in my enjoyment of your book. But this is what prompted my message: I have never met a Thomas Hardy character to whom I didn’t want to say, “Don’t do it!” and they do it anyway. Jeremy is reading JUDE THE OBSCURE and thinks Arabella is the better woman for him. He says, “I wanted to take him aside and explain this to him, but there was nothing for it but to muddle on with my own life instead.” Perfect.

  19. Catherine George says:

    Just finished JEREMY THRANE. I hope you enjoyed writing it as much as I enjoyed reading it.

  20. ciao! luvFAB blog.
    thebestdressup

  21. Bruce Cook says:

    I’ve managed to stumble my way into reading each of your books, each a delight, each remembered fondly. Happy to hear there are more to come. Wonderful blog, too. Thanks so much.

  22. teamgloria says:

    delighted to have found you!

    on a rare occasion, the print edition of the Los Angeles Times was purchased and read, lovingly (the book section) and there you were.

    *orderingyourbooknow*

    delicious.

    a. new. author. to. discover. and. relish.

    *wavingfromLosAngeles* (with a british accent)

    _teamgloria x

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  24. Must be something in the Portland water! Hope to reach your literary heights soon.

  25. I enjoyed your interview on Fresh Air.

    When were you at the University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop? Did you teach Rhetoric? I was a grad student at Iowa 88-90 in the Comm Studies Department and taught Rhetoric.

    I actually went back to the family farm I grew up on and have been farming and doing public policy work, mainly representing my community on Capitol Hill.

    This link explains a little about me:

    http://chroniclenewspaper.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130404/NEWS01/130409992/Chris-Pawelski-stirs-the-muck

    This is a link to my blog, which you may find mildly amusing or interesting:

    http://muckville.com

    I will have to pick up your memoir at the end of my season.

  26. Nancy Simpson says:

    Loved your interview today on NPR and can’t wait to read Blue Plate Special. I love memoirs, and your adventures sound intriguing!
    Nancy Simpson
    Toronto (via Tempe!)

  27. Tina says:

    Just heard your interview on NPR, inspired to read your new book, but also your other books.

  28. Lee says:

    I caught your interview on Fresh Air yesterday while working. I had to stop and listen. So many parallels to my life I had to catch my breath! Similar experiences, same places. Thank you for openly talking about Waldorf, groping teachers without consequences, having to support yourself living with strangers while still a child, the 70′s in reality, your struggle to work with your twisted psychological reasoning. I thought I was alone. Now I wonder if there is a whole population of ex waldorfians out there? In any case, thank you. I have found no one who understands this stuff unless they’ve been there, went through that, but you are the first to have voiced it that I know of! Thanks for sharing your journey.
    Also, I am looking for a key note speaker for an organic conference in Feb 2014. Someone inspiring to those producing food and to the organic movement but not too pricey (non-profit). Suggestions? Thanks.

  29. Lee says:

    Thank you for acknowledging me. It means more than you know!
    And thanks for the keynote lead! I will look her up!

  30. Ken says:

    Kate: I just read your piece in the Wall Street Journal (20 July) and not only enjoyed it but identified with it – even down to the single cleanliness after the joint messiness. Having been divorced for a year now (after 29 years of marriage), I have dealt with the emotions and mechanics of that separation by happily cooking for myself. I’ve made breakfasts and dinners a celebration to myself. Your description of both the process and the thoughts while enthusiastically cooking for yourself captured the moments beautifully. Your writing was a treat for a Saturday morning. I’m a follower now. Thanks for sharing your work.

  31. Hi Kate: This is Andy Couturier from Reed College days in 1982. So happy for your success. Love to be in touch. I’ve written two books myself, A Different Kind of Luxury, and Writing Open the Mind. Thanks for being a light for me back when we were 18. I enjoyed In The Drink, which I read about 10 years back. Best, Andy

  32. David J Centner says:

    Kate, I heard you on Wisconsin Public Radio today. You mentioned that you can’t eat gluten. You might want to look for Katherine Czapp’s articles on the Weston A Price Foundation website. Her father-in-law suffers from celiac sprue. But, after reading an Italian study that seems to indicate that celiac sufferers can tolerate wheat products that have been lactobacillus fermented, she found that he could eat sourdough bread and sourdough pelmeni. (She gives her recipes.) Sourdough is a symbiosis of a yeast and a lactobacillus. It seems that the fermentation denatures the toxic peptides. I think a lot of foods were fermented to make them more edible. Cruciferous vegetables, for example, contain toxins that can cause thyroid problems. Maybe that was how kim chee and sauerkraut were invented. Wheat contains alkaloids that are mildly addictive. No wonder it is a comfort food.

  33. Steve S. says:

    Hi Kate,
    It’s Steven from Skylight Books in L.A. It was wonderful to meet you at the event downtown a few weeks ago. It has bothered me that I told you the wrong Helen Brown when discussing cookbooks Kevin West had talked about during his event for Saving the Season at our store. It was not Helen Gurly Brown…I was confused, just enough whiskey diluting my brain juice. The book is Helen Brown’s West Coast Cookbook, 1952. “It was Brown who first established that there WAS a West Coast cuisine.” The hardback has a lovely cover – take a look online. Okay, now I can sleep at night.
    Congrats on Blue Plate Special!

  34. Bonnie Walters says:

    Dear Kate Christensen,

    What a wonderful way of writing! I’m in the middle of “Blue Plate Special” and thoroughly enjoying it, not least because of how you describe Liz, a close friend from my long-ago days at Berkeley. I not only knew your parents, I stood up with them on their wedding day!

    Now I’m going to get your other books. Regards to you and to Liz.

    Bonnie Walters, Cambridge

  35. Bonnie Walters says:

    And she did, twice! Thanks so much for putting us in touch!

    Bonnie

  36. Kate says:

    Katie – you’d have no reason to remember me, but I was a freshman at GMW when you were a senior, and you were always very nice to me. (I was a shy little mouse, and at our prom, when I was standing on the sidelines – in my Gunne Sax dress – you pulled me out on the dance floor and said, “Come on, I’ll teach you to dance!”) I have always remembered you with fondness and kept up with your books. I have my own issues with the 8 years I spent at that school, and am very sorry you went through what you did (I recognized who you were talking about right away.) What a bizarre place it was. Congratulations on the new book!

  37. Ann Hunkins says:

    Kate,
    I didn’t know you, but started as a freshman at Green Meadow the year you graduated. I’m hoping you will send your email – I heard about the GMWS issues you raised in Blue Plate Special and wanted to thank you personally for making it public.
    Thanks!
    Ann

  38. Good Morning Kate,
    I have mentioned you in my post today -kathiostrom.com/2013/08/24/an-award-and-a-happy-anniversary – if you’d like to take a look. Have a great day!

  39. I just devoured, literally, your BLUE PLATE SPECIAL in three readings (when I should have been canning tomatoes and cleaning house and working on my next book project) and find a kindred spirit of sorts in your words and life. I observed the local New Hampshire “anthropops” through various dabblings with Waldorf preschools and working off and on between grad school and college years for a fabulous baker in Peterborough, NH who had gone to Emerson College in England. And, well, we have similar “foodways” in our lives (having both been born in 1962), various related family scenarios and estrangements and ultimately, the midlife realization that we can’t escape our past and that it only forms the women we’ve become (I love that first paragraph in your epilogue). I am happy you have found your true soul mate–and on a New Hampshire farm, no less (the subject of a memoir I am now working on)–and now I can’t wait to read your fiction.

    Thank you so much for your book–I’m planning to blog about it and recommend it to all of my writer, and non writer friends. And I hope there will be some kind of healing redemption among my own siblings, and mother, as it seems you have found. [And thanks, also, for your unenthusiastic words about Iowa--I briefly considered applying there at midlife but you, and a few others, talked me out of it in some form or another.] All the best, Catherine Pond

  40. christinajane says:

    Thank you for sharing your stories in Blue Light Special. I’m only sorry I didn’t pace myself better, now I’m finished…time to look up the rest of your books!

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  43. Ken says:

    Back in July, I was in dire search of a “house cocktail” recipe for my new weekender on Curiosity Lane. The Rye Curiosity I would call it. Any kitchen-whiskey rye, some lemon juice, then topped with ginger beer and a few long shakes of angostura bitters. Saw your article today in the WSJ going public with a twist on my recipe! Great minds…. Ken in CT

  44. Pirjo says:

    I seem to be drawn to books that have ties to food. I picked up your “Blue Plate Special” in desperate search of a new book escape. To me, a good book grabs you from the first sentence on. Yours did just that! Thank you! (I don’t have patience for the kind that many good friends rave about; “it gets good after you get through the first 50 pages…”)
    Soon after buying your book, as much as I was cursing an awful cold that prevented me from going to work, I was a grateful for a chance to READ. This is a rare treat for me. I am throughly enjoying your “autobiography of your appetites”, and went to search more of your works, and as a bonus, found your blog, too!
    We come from different places and family dynamics, but yet I can identify with many complexities of life that you describe. I could, of course, never be able to articulate those thoughts on paper, as I am not a writer. However, when I read your work, I appreciate it like croisants I can’t make, but sure enjoy eating. I have a bookcase full of cookbooks, and yet most of the time, I do “jazz-cooking”, improvising with ingredients I have at hand. Depending on the moment, I can also equally enjoy a hot dog at a ballpark, and some pricey-for-my-budget oysters. Thanks again for allowing me to travel all over this country, Europe, and your eventful life, just by reading.

  45. teamgloria says:

    Kate

    Just read your piece in ELLE “something happened”

    Wow.

    Seriously. Wow.

    *high5fromlosangeles*

    Powerful prose.

    You’re amazing.

    Just saying.

    -teamgloria (sophia stuart in RL)

  46. Tom Sullivan says:

    I just read your novel Epicure’s Lament and loved it. It would make a great film. Do you have plans to bring Hugo to the screen?

  47. Madison says:

    Kate, I love your writing and was wondering if there was a way I could get in touch with you?

  48. JFLang says:

    Hello Kate,
    I just finished reading your Elle piece “A long forgotten sex crime held my life hostage”

    Wow, and Thank You! Having just turned 50, I’m finding myself in a scarily similar place with the sexual abuse disconnect. Replace the teacher with a church deacon, and a much older cousin and a long held the belief that ” it was something that just happened, I was young (14 and 16) and so many girls I knew had it much worse, it doesn’t affect me, why worry about it”.

    What I didn’t understand was how it would affect my own sexuality, my failed marriage, and my current relationships. Somehow, through a very repressed upbringing, I was sure I was the only one who deserved the copious amount of shame I have ladled upon myself, since telling anyone was out of the question.

    Thank you for your courage to speak, for many conformations that link so closely to mine. I don’t assume that by publishing this one truth that you speak for anyone other than yourself, but since I’ve come to understand that you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a girl who’s been sexually abused I think you could hit the nail on the head for hundreds, if not more.

    You have given me much to consider. I look forward to reading more from your perspective, imagination, your books and blog.

    With Much Gratitude,

    J.F.Lang

  49. misslisted says:

    Heard you on NPR a few days ago (a re-run) talking about your book Blue Plate Special. It was a synchronistic moment for me. My significant other, who doesn’t speak much of the physical abuse his father dished out to his mother, had just the day before looked me in the eye and said to me that he’d seen a photo of a drive-in movie theater where his mother had taken him when he was very young to pass the time and hide from his father. I am the one in our relationship who always talks about stuff, but I stood there looking at him and I felt a rather stunning lack of ability to speak, largely because of the haunted expression on his face. Like you, he wasn’t at the receiving end of the abuse, it was all directed at his mother. He was an only child and his mother left his father when he was about 5 years old. She died in a car accident when he was 7 and he went to live with his (loving) grandparents. Since he doesn’t talk about it much, and there are many mysteries that surround it all, I decided that reading your book was a good idea for me, and also because you and I have other things in common, like Julia Child, and Laurie Colwin and blogging and so on. I pulled over to the side of the road during the interview and ordered your book. How delightful to discover you and your writing. I started reading today…-Chris

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