By William Grimes writing in The New York Times : February 27, 2008
Wartime rationing in Britain ended in 1954, just in time for the birth of John Haney. A good thing, too, because the boy had an appetite, gluttonously documented in “Fair Shares for All.” The greasy curtain in this food-and-family memoir rises on the 4-year-old John stuffing his face with “soldiers” — toast strips for dipping in soft-boiled egg — as if in training for the strenuous regime of sausages, mince pies, custard, beans on toast and bacon sandwiches to come.
FAIR SHARES FOR ALL
A Memoir of Family and Food
By John Haney
Illustrated. 279 pages. Random House. $26.
Mr. Haney, who eats better these days as the copy chief at Gourmet magazine, vividly captures a particular moment in history, the period when working-class families like his took their first tentative steps toward the postwar prosperity reflected in Harold Macmillan’s boast that “most of our people have never had it so good.”
Mum did have her eye on the prize, though. Considered just a touch “upper-crusty” by her in-laws, all true-blue Cockneys from the East End, she aspired to the finer things, especially when it came to education and culture. Her social ambitions, and a £5 deposit, created the first generation of suburban Haneys, transplanted from London to the Essex village Chipping Ongar, where neighbors read books, worked in the professions and took their holidays in France.
Mr. Haney ached for the East End, and the raucous company of his relatives, the way an amputee feels the pain of a phantom limb. Spiritually a Cockney, he presents himself as a displaced person. Only at rare clan gatherings can he reclaim his heritage. At 12, he is thrust into a far from illustrious but nevertheless private school, where he develops a multilayered inferiority complex and a monumental chip on his shoulder.