"It started at the grocery store, as trouble so often does." Food can be a great creative stimulus, especially if you're Molly Wizenberg. In her memoir, A Homemade Life, she uses ingredients as memories in the larger story that she's cooking up. For her, an excess of beautiful oranges becomes not only an amazing cake, but also a funny and insightful tale about delayed gratification.
Food is Wizenberg's vehicle for telling us about growing up and out into the world, and also for touching on a deeper range of human issues. She explores life and people through the elemental connections of food: preparing it, sharing it, and in her family's case, exulting in it. Along with her memories and essential to them, she gives us forty-five enticing recipes, as varied as "coconut macaroons with chocolate ganache" and "caramelized cauliflower with salsa verde." Her choices lean heavily on desserts and sweets, but interesting salads and soups and some charming simple ideas, like "bread and chocolate," are included.
Wizenberg's parents took her to Paris when she was ten. The shine of appreciation and her father's attentive indulgence glows behind the descriptions of the meals and snacks they savored there, among them "pain au chocolat." Bread and chocolate. Repeated trips to Paris shaped her, especially her understanding of what food can mean. Her father wasn't an easy man. He could deliver brutally harsh judgments and be emotionally distant. But there was more to him and Wizenberg found it in those moments they shared something delicious, and discovered her kind, if distracted, mother, too. She shares midnight family convergences in the kitchen, a chronology of Christmas cookies, and the breakfasts she made for her father as he was dying. Then there's a scrumptious love story.
Without straining for connections, and with a natural generosity, Molly Wizenberg uses her writing and her cooking to give full attention to Life. She tells us easily in funny, lyrical and tender stories which center on something savored, that feeding people is loving them and that by "the simple acts of cooking and eating, we are creating and continuing the stories that are our lives."
If you are a "foodie" or just love a good recipe, look at Wizenberg's blog, Orangette. But give yourself the pleasure of her book as well. The writing is fresh and, like the recipes, full of depth and exuberance. As for me, I'm going to have a bit of bread and chocolate right now.
Creator of an award-winning blog, Orangette, Molly Wizenberg grew up in a family that loved to prepare and share good meals together. Now a freelance food writer, with degrees in human biology, French, and cultural anthropology, she brings academic and personal appreciation to food as an essential element in human culture. Wizenberg writes regularly for Bon Appétit, and has been featured on NPR and PBS.
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