Like Proust--well, not exactly like Proust--Peg Bracken wanders around her new kitchen, her nice new kitchen with that window (""the official stance for thinking long thoughts is at the kitchen sink, looking out the window""), and finds memories springing up from food, even from kitchen equipment. Take eggs, for instance. Sure, they're fun in the present--Bracken tries cooking them shepherd-style, swirled in a sling--but that sulphur-dioxide smell also brings back third-grade lunches and third-grade taunts (""I don't shut up. I grow up. But when I see you, I throwup""). And then there's pumpkin soup, which reminds Bracken of a long-ago Halloween--when a local matron's madness emerged . . . and when Peg's loathsome older brother turned out to be not so loathsome after all. Ambrosia? Well, that summons up fourth-grade teacher Miss Williams (she made a classic ambrosia), whom Peg and chum Florence wanted to ask about sex. . . until they saw her crying. (She was pregnant.) And so it goes-in chapters that sneakily become darker in tone as Bracken zaps out the Bom-beck-style patter but touches on some serious stuff. Disillusionment, for example: there's the kind that comes when food-magazine recipes don't turn out like the picture; or the kind that came when Peg's Sunday-school birthday cake turned out to be made of plaster of Paris; or the kind that came with marriage. But, strangely enough, it's cleaning the kitchen that brings on the most vivid memories. Of the first genuine kiss--and the suave lechery that followed (""Does your mama ever see you nude?"" said Marry Monelli, who proceeded to give Peg a hickey on ""my left chest""). And, most affectingly, of Kansas grandparents and great-aunt Liz Noah--who ""lived around it"" after her husband and baby died in a fire, who escaped from a nursing home to die in a hotel. . . . Lots of funny stuff, yes, but Bracken--coming on like a younger Jessamyn West--shows another side here too. And the blend is disarming, touching, downright impressive.