Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes), by Luisa Weiss

My Berlin Kitchen is a memoir not just of Luisa Weiss's life in the kitchen (she is the creator of The Wednesday Chef blog) but of her life generally. Weiss was born in Berlin to an Italian mother and an American father. Their divorce when Luisa was four started her life of ping-ponging across the Atlantic. This life shaped Luisa's vision of herself; near the end of the book, she says, "When you have one parent in one country and one parent in another, when you are the one who travels back and forth, you learn to split your life very carefully."

As Weiss discusses her childhood, she talks about how and from whom she learned to cook; the vignettes about her developing life in the kitchen have a charming warmth. Soon enough, however,  she reaches her 20s, when she lives and works in Paris. While there, she falls in love with a wonderful man named Max and moves to Berlin with him. When she cannot find a job in Berlin, she quickly bails, heading for New York City. There, over the course of nearly a decade, she builds a career in publishing, starts her well-received blog, and builds a relationship with Sam. At the same time, she experiences a deep longing to return to Berlin, something in which Sam has no interest. Over what seemed an interminable stretch, she agonizes over what to do, ultimately breaking up with Sam and (after reuniting with Max) deciding to move to Berlin. The remainder of the book details her efforts to establish anew life in Berlin with Max, their engagement, and their eventual wedding.

In nearly every chapter, Weiss talks about cooking and food and includes a recipe. Generally, the commentary on cooking and food is well-integrated with the narrative of Weiss's life, and there's a deftness to Weiss's writing about food (and about place) that is not always present in writing about other aspects of her life. For me, the writing about cooking and food was the book's strength. As I've mentioned before, I may be too old for the angst of 20-somethings. but younger readers may find both aspects of the book equally engaging.

Favorite passage:
And when I got home in the dark afternoons in these first few weeks, I ate scores of Christmas cookies, softened in hot tea and chewed on the couch, my feet curled up under me for warmth. Biting into a chewy, fragrant Basler Leckerli, I tasted my childhood, a hundred cookies munched by a candlelit tree, and I tasted the longing for home I had felt each time the cookie-baking season rolled around in New York. I tasted the struggle of sky-high expectations. And I tasted a little bit of triumph too, because at the end of the day, I was home.

No comments:

Post a Comment