Yesterday and the day before I was irritated. The book I had just finished had not lived up to my expectations in many ways. I’m wondering if the book deserved the thorough ripping I gave it in yesterdays post, but, regardless, it was a disappointment and I needed a palate cleanser. However, I’m leaving town for the weekend, and finishing a book and choosing a new one right before a trip always creates a sense of unease for me. What if I choose the wrong one? I’m stuck with it until I get back or I decide to drop $20 on a book from the airport Hudson News. On Tuesday night, I wasn’t ready to make that commitment. Fortunately, I remembered a little book that had been hanging out on the bookshelf for months.
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, Lucy Knisley’s graphic novel memoir of growing up with a foodie dad and a chef mom in New York City and Rheinbeck, New York, was recommended and loaned to me by my friend, Laura, last fall. It’s been languishing on my bookshelf, never out of sight but never the book I reach for next. This time, it was the perfect choice. Visually bright and colorful, it is a gorgeous love letter to food exploring the importance of food in bringing people together. Knisley is an artist and cartoonist, and her drawings brilliantly capture the ups and downs of her childhood, the excitement of several favorite recipes, and the joy that comes from cooking something really well. She tells the story of her relationship with food and cooking in little vignettes, focusing on her travels with her dad, working the farmers markets with her mother, and cooking, or trying to cook, with various friends. An added bonus, she went to college and lived for a time in Chicago, and the chapter on her decision to move back to New York highlights several of my favorite Chicago eateries.
I don’t really consider myself a cook or a chef or a baker or anything like that, nor do I enjoy cooking all the time, but there are a few things that I make really well. The pride and satisfaction I feel when something turns out perfectly, especially if I have played with the ingredients and am not sure what the result will be, is a great feeling. Though I don’t have the relationship to food and, particularly, cooking that Knisley does, those brief moments of cooking success make me appreciate her love letter in graphic novel form very much. Besides, I do love eating good food with family and good friends, and I do appreciate the appeal of a well-stocked cheese counter, even if I don’t know what all the descriptions and categories mean.
This was, in fact, the perfect palate cleanser. It was a short, quick, and thoroughly enjoyable read. I started it on the train to work yesterday morning and was finished before I was halfway home in the afternoon. The recipes she includes look delicious and simple enough for me to try. And quite honestly, the book was refreshing in its focus on the simplicity and power of food to bring people together. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen was a delightful read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good meal.