In this culinary confessional from the acclaimed author, it’s less about the kitchen and more about the yarns.
Writing a compelling food memoir is a delicate act; the recipes have to live up to the memories they evoke. In the hands of prolific author Hood (Morningstar: Growing Up with Books, 2017, etc.), the stories themselves are the main dish—but the food still has to be delicious. “I grew up eating. A lot,” she writes at the beginning. “As the great food writer M.F.K. Fisher said, ‘First we eat, then we do everything else.’ That describes my childhood home.” From the kitchen of her Italian grandmother Gogo through her career as a flight attendant, a seemingly perfect American suburban existence, the death of a child, divorce, and fairy tale–like second chance at true romance, Hood recalls each moment through the meals she was preparing, recipes both great and, well, not-so-great. The good ones include her family’s traditional meatballs: “The secret to [the] meatballs is how you roll them, a skill my father could never master. Neither could I.” The bad ones include her father’s scrambled eggs made with sugar. Then there are the heartbreaking ones: the “doctored” ramen Hood makes on the anniversary of her 5-year-old daughter Gracie’s death (which she movingly chronicled in her 2008 book, Comfort). “It still hits me when I see seckel pears in the grocery store,” she writes. “Little blonde girls in glasses. Hear the Beatles singing ‘Eight Days a Week.’ The sharp stab of a memory rises to the surface out of nowhere.” But her ramen, featuring a poached egg, butter, and American cheese, helps. While some of the stories feel redundant, with repeated bits of history rephrased, when Hood is focused on her prose, it’s like a classic recipe—all the flavors sing.
A full plate of heart and hearty eats.