With a long standing and often-atypical interest in home food preparation, (most juniors in high school do not spend their summers perfecting their pie crust), it was no wonder that Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table resonated with me. The book is so much more than a cookbook; each recipe is placed in context of a time or place in the author’s life. Part exploration of favorite recipes and part memoir, Wizenberg writes about what is real in her life:
It was the steady rhythm of meeting in the kitchen every night, sitting down at the table, and sharing a meal. Dinner didn’t come through a swinging door, balanced on the arm of an anonymous waiter; it was something that we made together. We built our family that way — in the kitchen, seven nights a week. We built a life for ourselves, together around that table. And although I couldn’t admit it then, my father was showing me, in his pleasure and in his pride, how to live wholly, hungrily, loudly.
While Wizenberg grew up in Oklahoma City, sometimes eating hot dogs and canned baked beans, and I grew up in rural upstate New York where such processed foods were eschewed, we still share the same sensibility when it comes to food. According to Wizenberg, food and preparing meals together reflect our connection with others in our lives- sometimes family, sometime friends- but those we care about nonetheless. In my family, our long cherished family recipes always commemorate from whom we got the recipe: Faye’s cornbread, Monica’s marinade, and Gramma’s broccoli salad. Our recipes are threads that tie us to previous generations or times in our lives.
In her book, Wizenberg captures in part why we take the time to prepare something special or search out a favorite recipe:
It’s going to sound silly, I know, but I think that what it all comes down to is winning hearts and minds. Underneath everything else, all the plans and goals and hopes, that’s why we get up in the morning, why we believe, why we try, why we bake chocolate cakes. That’s the best we can ever hope to do: to win hearts and minds, to love and be loved.
While describing cooking, it also captures a philosophy of life.