As promised, I bring you my first book review from my recent finds at the library. It didn't take me very long at all to delve into A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, nor did it take long to finish. Though the book is structured more like a very personal series of blog posts, it reads like a memoir told in meals. Wizenberg is the writer over at food blog Orangette and this book, subtitled "Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table" very accurately explains what is inside. She regales us with stories of her father, the main cook in her family who threw himself into life, as well as her mother, the primary baker, who loved to wear heels to add a few inches to her barely 5 foot tall frame. The recipes that take us through all of the major events in Wizenerg's life, including holidays, travels, deaths, and weddings. We learn about her family, her love life, her travels, and her career path, all from the vantage of her kitchen table.
It doesn't hurt that I identify with Wizneberg on many accounts, from the way in which her days revolve around food to the fact that she has only been drunk once in her life. Yet there are some stark differences between me and the blogger that were a compelling force in my drive to finish this book. I am in awe of her bravery, her apparent lack of fear in traveling to Paris on her own, leaving her family and support system behind. I envy her talent as a writer, how accomplished she is, having contributed to PBS, Bon Appetit and NPR, to name a few.
But I also love the way in which she interweaves her life story into every recipe. This isn't just a collection of recipes, but rather, a collection of stories through which we can understand the context of each dish, how it came to be, and what it means to Molly. In blogging about food, I often get right to the recipe and offer minimal context, worrying that people are more interested in my recipes and the final product than what the meal means to me. Reading Wizenberg's book, however, provides evidence to the contrary. Sure, you don't need to include your entire life story to explain a single meal, but including some context or anecdote is a great way to better relate to your readers and allow your personality to come through. After all, if it wasn't a good method, Orangette wouldn't be the success it is and A Homemade Life would never have been published.
For food bloggers, food lovers, and the nostalgic, I highly recommend Wizenberg's book. Even if you just want some great new dishes and don't care much for reading the rest, this is still a wonderful collection of tried and true recipes. But especially for those who love to write about food, who find their lives shaped by food and don't know how to direct that passion, Wizenberg provides an inspiring account of her life in food, a path that allowed her to take the thing that got her out of bed in the morning (breakfast) and turned it into a reason to make it to dessert that night - to eat, to write, and to share.