Flash Review: A Homemade Life

From Literary Mama’s Essential Reading, December 2015

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Lately I’ve been thinking about legacies—what we leave behind for future generations, what we pass on to our friends and family. Recipes are a huge part of that. Even though it’s a strange concoction of all the wrong foods, I will always love my mother’s ‘cherries ‘n noodles,’ a cloyingly sweet unbaked kugel of sorts that no one outside the Jewish enclaves of Northeast Philadelphia seems to be able to stomach.

One of my favorite writers, Molly Wizenberg, wrote eloquently about the family legacy of food in her 2010 masterpiece, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. Molly writes with grace, gumption, and gusto about the way food reflects life. Each recipe in the book is paired with its own carefully woven tale that connects family, identity, and memory. Her mother’s pound cake recipe comes with nostalgic stories about midwestern pot luck picnics. Simple directions for bouchons au thon (little tuna cakes which I have made maybe a hundred times in the last few years) come with lovely tales of Molly’s time in Paris, and her charming host family.

In a way, Molly’s recipes and stories are something that she has passed on to me, too. I might never live in France or lay out a picnic blanket under the Oklahoma sun, but I can, in my own small way, continue these distant family legacies in my very own kitchen.

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