Summer Reading That Won't Make You Stupid: Portrait of the Food Critic as a Young Boho

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Moira Hodgson's It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: My Adventures in Life and Food (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $24.95) might have been subtitled The Education of a Restaurant Critic. The author's addition to an ever-expanding list of food memoirs will surprise (and probably charm) anyone unfamiliar with her New York Observer food reviews. Daughter of an English diplomat-cum-spy, Hodgson grew up in Egypt, Beirut, Stockholm, and Saigon as well as England, along the way feasting on both native cooking and British grub. Tales of bohemian life in Greenwich Village, Paris, London, Spain, and Marrakesh, and of affairs with, among others, a temperamental Argentine ballet dancer and poet William Merwin (not to mention writing gigs that included subbing for Mimi Sheraton at the New York Times and a stint at Vanity Fair) are lightly salted with recipes. They range from her grandmother's wartime steamed puddings (probably not worth attempting) to a more alluring lamb tagine with green olives. Like Hodgson's stories, it sounds delicious.

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