Pandl's memoir recounts her Midwestern childhood and the behind-the-scenes action of her family's restaurant.
The youngest of nine, the author and her siblings grew up working in their Catholic family's Milwaukee restaurant under the supervision of their father, the chef. Pandl's tenderhearted, humorous debut explores her childhood memories, at home and in the kitchen, and her relationships with both of her parents, particularly that with her eccentric, ferociously hardworking father, George. After he caught the 12-year-old Pandl on the couch in her pajamas one summer afternoon, he put her to work. Her first job involved "doing pancakes" during the restaurant's brunch service, and she rose to the task with hilarious results. The majority of her stories reflect the loving, chaotic atmosphere of her family, both in and out of the restaurant kitchen, but Pandl doesn't sugarcoat the darker ones with unnecessary sentimentality. Instead, she relies on humor to keep her vignettes engaging. "The few baby pictures that exist were all taken on the same day," she writes, "as if someone said, 'Let's get a few pictures, just in case she's kidnapped.' " In her 20s, Pandl watched her father "retire and unretire" more than a dozen times, continuing the work he had done his entire career even as his efforts grew less and less appreciated. She describes her parents' deaths with astonishing, plain honesty, and discusses the myriad ways, good and bad, in which they live on in herself and her siblings.
Sweet, simple and often funny.