Last updated on February 9th, 2015
While doing my taxes this month I took notice of just how much I fork over to New York City each paycheck. It’s a lot. Being a dog owner, I definitely make excellent use of our city parks, but I feel I need to take further advantage of my hard earned shekels, and decided that from now on, I’m going to make much better use of the library.
It’s pretty fantastic actually. I just sign on to NYPL, select the books and CDs I want, and request that they be sent to my neighborhood branch. I chose a wide array of food related books and the first one that arrived was A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, the creator of Orangette. Trouble is, I didn’t save myself any money because the book is so darned good and packed with so many wonderful recipes that I now want to buy it and give it a place of honor on my kitchen bookshelf. Fortunately, it just came out in paperback.
Molly is a food blogger and, by way of Orangette, scored a regular column at Bon Appetit. She’s not a trained chef, or a maven, or wholly devoted to any one cuisine though she leans French. She writes stories about food as they relate to her life and they are nothing short of lovely.
A Homemade Life is not exactly a memoir, but more a chronicle of meals that mean something to the author. Each chapter contains a story from Molly’s life with an accompanying recipe. They include stories from a childhood raised by food-loving parents, her first trip to Paris, the pain of losing her father to cancer, and the giddiness of meeting her future husband. Each story is lived and told through the senses and she relishes in every emotion, both joyous and painful.
I say that Paris is the place where I’ve been loneliest, and also where I’ve been happiest. But what I mean is harder to say. The thing I call loneliness is delicate and lovely, like a blown-out eggshell. It’s both empty and hopeful, broken and beautiful.
Mollly manages to give us an intimate view into her life without treading into the dangerous waters of “too much information.” Her voice is warm and engaging and when I finished it, I didn’t just feel that this is someone I would like to know, rather someone who was already a friend and a kindred spirit. I was surprised to find out how much I was inspired by her recipes.
My own culinary sensibilities don’t match with Molly’s, my style being what I call “lusty Italian.” She mostly bakes, has a serious sweet tooth, and makes a lot of salads. Yet, before I was halfway through the book she had me stewing prunes with orange and lemon slices, making arugula salad with bits of semi-sweet chocolate, and craving cornbread with a cream center and doused in maple syrup. Girlfriend has even convinced ME to buy a cake pan.
I doubt that Molly’s book will be made into a blockbuster movie, or that she will achieve the widespread fame of Julie Powell. Reading A Homemade Life is like sorting through a chest filled with antique lace handkerchiefs. It’s a box of fancy chocolate where you smile and frown as you discover what’s inside each one. It’s a warm gem that a daughter will pull from her mother’s bookshelf 30 years from now and find inspiration.