Kudos to Molly Wizenberg. Anyone who can make cooking sound not only appealing but downright enjoyable deserves serious credit in my book. The kitchen is not my favorite place and cooking more a chore than a pleasure, but Molly Wizenberg has such a charming style, writing about something she obviously feels passionate about, it's hard not to get caught up in her excitement. Her delight doesn't end with food, but it extends to her family, friends and places she's lived and visited, too.
I wasn't really sure what to expect from A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. This isn't a book I would normally pick up on my own, but Darlene was so enthusiastic about it (and then later other bloggers also heartily recommended it), I had to at least give it a look, so a request went in at the library. It's a cross between a cookbook and a memoir. The chapters are short anecdotal writings that relate in some way to food, and at the end she shares the recipe. The writing style is actually quite similar to a blog post, which makes me wonder if she had edited her work to move it from one format to the other. In this case it works since it's all about food she loves and how it relates to her family or an experience in her life, so the short chapters seem very suited--both style and content.
Molly seems most at home in the kitchen, a place where she spent much time while growing up in Oklahoma during the 1980s. For her family, restaurant cooking could never compare with meals cooked at home and enjoyed together around the table. Both parents passed on their love of good food and cooking to her, and even her siblings have cooking related jobs or a love of cooking as well. One of the pivotal events in her life was the death of her father, an almost larger than life persona who taught her how to live life with gusto and introduced her to a place she would come to love, Paris. She writes at length about him and with great affection. I read an interview with Molly Wizenberg and writing about him was both a way of remembering him but also part of her grieving process. Setting down her memories of him meant she could "store them somewhere else."
Burg's death (as he was called by his family) was really a turning point in Molly's life. It was in part the impetus for her to travel once again to Paris, ostensibly to finish her dissertation. But when she spent more time gazing into windows of French food shops than doing research, she knew where her heart really lay. She gave up her studies when she returned to Seattle, where she had moved to go to school. She started her now-famous blog, Orangette, and began sharing her love of cooking with others. It's all very fairy tale-ish really, as it was through her blog that she met her husband, who was living on the other side of the country in New York. A wedding and a book later, they now run a Brooklyn-style pizzaria in Seattle and Molly writes a monthly column for Bon Appetit magazine and is still blogging. How's that for fame, fortune and happiness all (well, at least in part) thanks to the internet?
Although very different in subject matter A Homemade Life reminded me a lot of Eat, Love, and Pray by Elizabeth Gilbert. Both have a chatty, confessional style of writing, and both authors were reworking their lives and learning to follow their dreams, and both seem like they must be as nice in person as they appear in their writings. A Homemade Life accompanied me to the gym this past week or so, perfect reading for a place that can be hard to concentrate in. I will say I was happy I read the chapters about Burg's death when I was alone as it was heart wrenching, and it only takes a Kleenex commercial to make me sob sometimes, so imagine reading about someone being diagnosed with cancer. Despite the moments of sadness, this was an enjoyable read and it's something that can easily be left on the bedside table to be picked up and dipped into at whim (which I think I would have preferred to do had I not waited until the last minute with a due date hanging over my head). It's a very quick read, though. My favorite parts were about her experiences in Paris and I agree that French bread with a square of chocolate in the middle is indeed delicious.
In case you were wondering. I did copy out some of those recipes (how could I not?). When I am feeling especially brave (and industrious) I will make one and share it here (virtually anyway).