First, let me preface this by saying I love cooking and I love memoirs, so a cooking themed memoir…well, its like hitting the jackpot. I have read My Life in France, Julie and Julia, The Sweet Life in Paris, and many others. That could have been a plus or a minus for this book, on one hand I’m familiar with the setting and the genre and like it already, on the other hand it has some pretty stiff competition.
This book is less of a memoir in style and more of a series of personal narratives and I loved that organization. There is a vignette and then the recipe that it leads up to. It works very well, it is highly engaging and makes the reading very fast paced.
The writing is very accessible, the reader feels as though Molly Wizenberg is speaking to them and what makes that work so well is that the writer is, at least as represented by this book, a truly likable, decent human being with some important things to say.
The nature of food and family and food and love is explored in loving detail. Memories of family are firmly entwined with food and here they are presented as complements of one another. Food as a celebration of family and love, a refreshing break from a culture which in some ways presents “food as the enemy”.
The author’s memories of her father, her celebration of his life and her grief at his passing are indeed heartbreaking. This quote expresses her sense of being “cheated” , a sense that many of those who have lost someone have experienced:
“When your father dies, especially if he is older, people like to say such things as, “He was so lucky. He lived a long, full life.” It’s hard to know what to say to that. What often comes to mind is, “Yes, you’re right. he was seventy-three, so I guess it was his time. But did you know him? Did you see how he was? He bought wine futures seven months before he died. He saw patients the afternoon he was diagnosed. He wasn’t finished.”
I don’t mean to infer that this book is all sadness and grief, there is much joy and celebration of life as well. The author details her meeting of her husband and the life they built together through a shared love of food, friends and family. In one passage, discussing her first meeting with her future husband, a friend exclaims “I’m so excited for you….You’ve been taking this on with your whole heart and that oversized mind of yours. Don’t stop now. This is the bread and butter! This is what it is all about.” Lovely sentiment, lovely quote.