review: a homemade lifePosted: April 30, 2010
it is time again for another foodie book club review, thanks to (never home) maker! and this month, the book chosen could not be more different than the bourdain. instead, we’ve got an autobiographical book by a wonderful food blogger, molly of orangette. i mentioned it last night during the food writing course i’ve started taking at leiths. since i missed the first class last week while away, i missed the first assignment – to pick out a piece of food writing you love (as well as one you hate) and share it with the group. i immediately thought of this, as i had finished the book while on my travels, so i write this review with the class in mind. as i didn’t have the book with me last night, i couldn’t read a paragraph out loud that i found particularly great, so i’ll do that here instead. one last thing: really, read this book. it is absorbing, inspiring, and beautifully written. whether you love cooking or not, i guarantee you’ll enjoy this.
molly wizenberg – a homemade life: stories and recipes from my kitchen table
i find myself in a similar situation as last month. i hadn’t read or experienced any of what anthony bourdain had to offer before reading his book, and now i was faced with molly wizenberg’s autobiography, after having never read orangette before. i had certainly heard of this blog, had maybe stumbled upon it online once or twice, but it didn’t make its way into my google reader.
that has changed now.
other than having a pretty cool name (sorry, it had to be said), molly is a great writer. she has a way of describing her dishes and recipes that makes photographs seem unnecessary. good thing there aren’t any photos in this book, then. but after glancing at her blog, it seems she is highly skilled in the photography department as well. what a talented lady.
i am writing all of this from memory – the book is currently somewhere between san diego and london, as i had to ship a box of stuff home (you try fitting three weeks of vacation and reunions into one suitcase!) – so unfortunately, i won’t be able to quote anything verbatim. but i remember bits that certainly stuck out for me.
a homemade life starts at the beginning, during molly’s childhood in oklahoma, and follows her through high school and college, travels and traumas, loss and love. i like to think that there is no ending – she is, after all, still living and writing (and i assume, cooking) – but it brings us up to speed with how she became the food lover she is today.
her descriptions of her parents are heartwarming and hilarious – real characters. during most of the book, i felt as though i were sitting with her and her family in their kitchen, quietly enjoying the atmosphere and all of the smells and sounds. i loved that her parents were total opposites in the kitchen: her mother, who liked to measure everything and present beautiful sweet creations, and her father, “berg”, who was much more visceral and untidy, “in charge” of the savory. they seemed to complement each other perfectly.
but i think my favorite section of the book came when she first met her now-husband. by email! long distance! i love that! the feelings she described as they were beginning to exchange emails and get to know each other really reminded me of how phil and i first got in touch. that feeling of “this is strange, but exciting, and i’m not sure where this is going, but it could be really great”. plus, on a totally superficial level, her engagement ring sounds exactly like mine. that’s just silly and fun.
her love of paris made me really excited to go back – and i simply must try this warm baguette and dark chocolate combination. finally, a pain au chocolate i could actually eat and enjoy!
i found myself bookmarking several of her recipes as i went through. so many salads! and there are some lovely baked dishes that i’d love to adapt for an allergy-free audience. but it never once felt like a recipe book. even though the chapters leading up to each recipe are short, that is the real meat of the book. you can’t have one without the other.
once it arrives in the mail, i’ll be sure to edit this review with some of my favorite direct quotations, but until then, i’ll leave you with this, the main message i took away from a homemade life: the best food comes not from a book, but from the heart.
the book is back in my possession! time to share my favorite part, a recipe that molly describes pretty early on.
Bread and Chocolate
This is a simple trick familiar to every French child. There’s something surprisingly right about chocolate and bread together, all that dark, rich sweetness against the chewy, salty crumb. It’s one of my favorite snacks.
French-style bread, preferably a baguette with a crust that’s not too thick
Chocolate, preferably dark
Cut or tear off a hunk of bread. Slice or tear it partially across its middle, as though you were going to use it for a sandwich. Break off a piece of chocolate roughly the same length as the piece of bread. Insert the chocolate into the bread. Eat.
Variation: You can warm the bread a little in the oven, either before or after inserting the chocolate. That way, the bread is soft and warm, and the chocolate gets a little oozy. Oozy chocolate is hard to beat.