Relish by Lucy Knisley
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
This book definitely lived up to all the good stuff that everyone has ever said about it. I loved it. I love food and I like cooking but I don't have the persistence to spend more of my time cooking though I always have this vision of me cooking more than I really do. Lucy Knisley owes her love and respect for food and cooking to her parents and the food-loving social circle she grew up with. Her father is a connoisseur of all things classy. He likes good wine, good food, good clothes, and good restaurants. He didn't cook but every time he traveled, he used it as an excuse to find and eat at the amazing restaurants in his travel destination. Lucy's mother was a chef and caterer and thanks to her, Lucy was an insider in the world of good food. No matter what the food is or if it was her first time trying a certain food, Lucy yearned to taste it and decide for herself if she will enjoy it. Quite unlike me, for whom the visual appearance of the food can be a deal breaker.
In Relish, Lucy talks about the role that food played in her upbringing and adult life. After reading it, it is really hard to look at food the same way as before, at least for a while. There is a lot of appreciation for getting the right quality of ingredients, embracing cooking as something to love rather than a necessary routine, and having an open mind and no prejudice about any kinds of strange or unappetizing foods. When Lucy was still a kid, her parents divorced and her mom moved from their NYC apartment to Rhinebeck, NY, where she started growing several vegetables and fruits in her garden. Although initially unhappy with the move, Lucy quickly begins to love this new rural life and learns a lot about the produce in their (and the neighbors') gardens.
Of course, like all young people, she goes through a phase of loving fast food, especially at McDonald's. Her parents don't like this at all but Lucy's love for non-fast food doesn't diminish. All through her childhood and adult years, she continues cooking. She mentions a memorable few days when she baked croissants after croissants trying to recreate the really amazing ones she had while on vacation at Venice.
Lucy was an art student and she feels art students make some of the best cooks because creating a dish is a kind of art - there is a good amount of visualization that goes into it and plenty of willingness to be bold with some choices in making the dish. If you are a fan of cooking shows, this is probably something you would strongly agree with - not necessarily the art student part but definitely the visualization part. When she was a kid, most of the people who worked in the kitchens at restaurants and bakeries in NYC were art students and musicians. Fast forward to when she is an adult, and the kitchens contain mostly people who are studying for a degree in a food discipline or on their way to becoming a professional chef.
There is much to love in this book. Who knew food could look so wonderful, yummy, and entertaining in a comic book? This isn't a traditional graphic book, where the illustrations do most of the talking. In some cases, the pictures speak a lot but in most cases, they are accompaniments to the text. However, when it comes to the recipes in this book, they certainly had more graphics than text. Lucy's family was hard not to love. I enjoyed reading about their experiences with food and all the trials they go through trying to create a favorite dish or cater to a new set of customers. Each chapter in this book focused on a different aspect of her life - her early teens focused on a fascination with fast food, her college days on her croissant baking attempts and on making dishes that her fellow students appreciated.
I am glad I finally read this one. Mostly, it has made me want to read more food memoirs and experience the journey these cooks/chefs/bakers had with food through their lives.
I borrowed this book from the good old library.