i'm back! this month's kitchen reader pick was a homemade life: stories and recipes from my kitchen table, by molly wizenberg, the creator of orangette (seriously, guys, all of that is on the cover of this book!), chosen by jules of stone soup.
i loved this book - so, so much. written like a blog in book form, each chapter consisted of a relatively short anecdote followed by a recipe. i do a lot of reading while standing up on a crowded bus at rush hour, so this format was perfect for me - it's hard to lose your place when the story you're reading is only two and a half pages long! despite this format, though, the stories flowed seamlessly together and were compelling and honest; i found it very easy to connect with the people whose stories were playing out on its pages. molly's writing style is amazing: she writes beautifully about everything from french cuisine, to falling in love, to watching her father lose a very short, heartbreaking battle with cancer.
i know it's an unpopular opinion, but i've always been pretty meh about french food. i think macarons are delicious and i eat spinach croissants from beans & bagels all the time, but i'm a vegetarian and i try to eat as little dairy as possible, so that essentially wipes out the rest of the french cuisine. however, i think molly wizenburg convinced me to give french food a second look. the chapter about eating bread and chocolate in paris captivated me. bread and chocolate! i read that story on the el one friday morning and could not stop thinking about the delicious possibilities of this combination all day. after work, i met a friend from college for coffee and ordered a croissant to share. they only had two left - spinach and chocolate. after a moment's pause, i went with spinach. my pants had been feeling tight all day and (i know croissants are full of butter but...) i opted for the "healthier" option, the spinach croissant. the barista must have read my mind, though, because she handed me the chocolate one! i didn't correct her and i ate the whole thing before my friend arrived. i've been eating whole wheat toast slathered with a chocolate spread a friend made for me every night since. i've also been eye-ing a recipe for french lentils since reading the chapter where molly and her mom visit a bouchon and are served "a bowl of lentils with shallots and vinaigrette" as their second course. and here, for years i've only been eating my lentils the way they do in india! silly me. thanks, molly wizenburg, for maybe getting me to enter the exclusive camp for fans of le cuisine française.
molly and brandon's love story was wonderful. and the alice walker quote they used on their wedding program: "i have learned not to worry about love, but to honor its coming with all of my heart." i loved it so much i wrote it down on a post-it note and hung it on my mirror. so that's that.
and: i don't know if you've ever been witness to someone dying of cancer, but it's a very ugly process. still, somehow, molly wrote about that time in her family's history with grace and maturity - her sadness at losing her father so young is evident throughout the book, but woven into the story is also her gratitude the many years she did get to spend with him and the multitudes of lesson she learned from him, both in and out of the kitchen. february 14th marked the 10th anniversary of an uncle's death from cancer and serendipitously, i read that portion of the story just a few days before valentine's day. her story reminded me of so many memories i'd long ago pushed from my mind and inspired me to honor my uncle's memory and commemorate the day with food. just as molly's father ate primarily "italian grotto eggs" while he was sick, my uncle wanted watermelon jello... which was, in 2002, practically impossible to find. ten years later, it's completely impossible to find, so i made watermelon jello from scratch, found a heart-shaped cookie cutter, and on valentine's day, i ate watermelon jello and remembered my uncle jim.
i turned down corners on tons of the pages containing recipes in this book and am excited to work my way through them. fruit-nut balls, tart tatine, slow roasted tomato pesto, red cabbage salad with lemon & black pepper, brandon's chana masala, spring salad with avocado & feta, and the "winning hearts and minds" cake are all going to be on my menu in the coming months. what recipes will you try?
PS: keep up with molly via her blog, orangette, here.