In a restaurant family, you’re never just hungry—you’re starving to death. And you’re never full—you’re stuffed. Patricia Volk’s family is as American (background: Austrian-Jewish) as “Rhapsody in Blue.” They came to these shores determined to make their mark; each of them is a piquant morsel of history. Great-grandfather Sussman Volk brought pastrami to the New World. Grandfather Jacob was known as “the Most Destructive Force on Wall Street” and was memorialized by E. B. White as “the greatest wrecker of all time” for his innovative method of demolition. Uncle Albert was the first man to stir scallions into cream cheese. The last of Grandfather Herman Morgen’s fourteen restaurants was a famous garment center hangout. One grandmother won the 1916 trophy for “Best Legs in Atlantic City.” The other was a three-hundred-pound calendar girl. Ms. Volk’s handsome, demanding restaurateur father invented the Six-color Retractable Pen and Pencil Set and the Double-sided Cigarette Lighter (so you never have to worry which end is up). For three generations, just about every Volk and Morgen (with the exception of Uncle Al, who had an eleven-year affair with Aunt Lil and then refused to marry her because she wasn’t a virgin) has, no matter what the circumstances, exhibited a terrifyingly positive attitude. With a cosmic disdain for the status quo, all of them—the tyrants, do-gooders, lovers, martyrs, and fakes—lived at full tilt. Stuffed is a wildly funny yet unsparing look at how families work.
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