For so many years, I couldn’t justify the time that it took to make a simple egg sandwich at the expense of the ever-expanding urgency of my to-do list. All of the preparation, all of the clean up, all of the potential mishaps (NEVER put pita in the toaster), just for twenty minutes of my own obligatory nourishment? No thanks. Yet I do believe credit should be given to books for my eventual foray into the kitchen. I rarely say no to a book with cooking at its nexus – memoirs about the rigors of the line cook, novels centered on a dinner party or cooking contest, glossy pages filled to the brim with recipes, etc. I now enjoy cooking, but I know true passion in the kitchen is as inherent to the bones as breathing. Whether it is the first spittle of juice from a fresh tomato or the lingering smell of a combined spice, these four books demonstrate dedication to their (culinary) art.
This week, the connections were clear. Aside from the fact that these four female protagonists demonstrate an incredible aptitude for cooking, they seek comfort (and often, answers) in the recipes of their grandmothers. Four different cuisines provide a proverbial buffet, and each girl’s resilience is woven through their respective challenges, as they’re confronted directly with the recipes they create. In Elizabeth Acevedo’s With Fire on High, Emoni’s abuela recognizes that food allows her a moment’s pause in the whirlwind of finishing high school and raising a child… before Emoni realizes it herself. Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte and Ann Xu arranges a cooking contest that Cici hopes will allow her A-má to come visit them from Thailand. Neela’s amma takes her on a walk to pick up tomatoes in Padma Lakshmi’s picture book Tomatoes for Neela, but not before a detailed inventory of flavor and style occurs. Finally, Ginny’s Nonna comes to life through her recipe book in The Kitchen Daughter… and I do mean comes to life… as she sifts through the secrets of her family through food. Good books feed your soul (pun intended), so I hope you enjoy!