- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1St Edition edition (March 3, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1416551050
- ISBN-13: 978-1416551058
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (249 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #549,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table Hardcover – March 3, 2009
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When Molly Wizenberg's father died of cancer, everyone told her to go easy on herself, to hold off on making any major decisions for a while. But when she tried going back to her apartment in Seattle and returning to graduate school, she knew it wasn't possible to resume life as though nothing had happened. So she went to Paris, a city that held vivid memories of a childhood trip with her father, of early morning walks on the cobbled streets of the Latin Quarter and the taste of her first pain au chocolat. She was supposed to be doing research for her dissertation, but more often, she found herself peering through the windows of chocolate shops, trekking across town to try a new pâtisserie, or tasting cheeses at outdoor markets, until one evening when she sat in the Luxembourg Gardens reading cookbooks until it was too dark to see, she realized that her heart was not in her studies but in the kitchen.
At first, it wasn't clear where this epiphany might lead. Like her long letters home describing the details of every meal and market, Molly's blog Orangette started out merely as a pleasant pastime. But it wasn't long before her writing and recipes developed an international following. Every week, devoted readers logged on to find out what Molly was cooking, eating, reading, and thinking, and it seemed she had finally found her passion. But the story wasn't over: one reader in particular, a curly-haired, food-loving composer from New York, found himself enchanted by the redhead in Seattle, and their email correspondence blossomed into a long-distance romance.
In A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, Molly Wizenberg recounts a life with the kitchen at its center. From her mother's pound cake, a staple of summer picnics during her childhood in Oklahoma, to the eggs she cooked for her father during the weeks before his death, food and memories are intimately entwined. You won't be able to decide whether to curl up and sink into the story or to head straight to the market to fill your basket with ingredients for Cider-Glazed Salmon and Pistachio Cake with Honeyed Apricots.
Explore the reading group guide for A Homemade Life.
A Conversation with Author Molly Wizenberg
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your life since publishing A Homemade Life? Have there been any special projects, meals, or recipes? Does Seattle still feel like home for both you and Brandon?
A: It's been busy around here, to say the least! In August of 2009, Brandon and I opened a restaurant. It's called Delancey, and it's in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. It's a Brooklynstyle wood-fired pizzeria, inspired by all the great pies that Brandon grew up eating in New York and New Jersey. A restaurant is probably the last thing that anyone expected of us, given that Brandon is a musician by training, and that I've written quite a bit about how much I dislike (!) working in a restaurant kitchen, but what can you do? He makes a killer pizza. I'm so proud of him.
Q: Do you still enjoy writing your blog, Orangette? Has it changed since you began it in 2004?
A: I love writing for the blog. Probably more than ever, actually. The blog is where I can be the most spontaneous in my writing, where I can really play. It's also an incredible community. I'm continually blown away by the conversations that crop up in comments, by the people that I've met, by the way it has completely reshaped my life over the past six years. It sounds cheesy, but I mean every word.
Q: At your book events or through your blog, do readers ever share their own food stories with you? Does one of these stand out in particular?
A: Absolutely. Talking with readers and hearing their stories has been my favorite part of book events. When I write, I feel as though I'm having a conversation with my readers--only, the thing is, I never actually get to see their faces or hear their voices. Book events give me that chance, and I'm so grateful for it. The fact that food gives us a common ground to meet on, that it gives us something to share--that's what it's all about. Now I'm really sounding cheesy.
Q: Does Paris continue to be a special place for you? Have you been back since the publication of your book?
A: Paris will always be a special place for me. I haven't been back since the book came out--this year was so busy!--but Brandon and I are hoping to steal away for a trip sometime in 2010. I miss it.
Q: List three items that are in your refrigerator right now, and what significance they have for you.
A: Peanut butter--it's not glamorous, but I could eat it every day. I'm pretty sure my body is at least 75 percent peanut butter.
Maple syrup--this particular jug of syrup was given to me by one of my readers. It came from her trees in upstate New York, and it's fantastic. I don't think there could possibly be a better present than maple syrup from your very own trees.
Apples from the farmers' market--one of the best parts of living in Washington! There's one stand in particular that has lots of heirloom apples, and they have the best names. Right now, I've got a couple of Black Twigs, one Gold Rush, and a couple of Waltanas.
Q: In A Homemade Life you write about both of your parents, but there seem to be more stories about your father and his outsized personality. Is there a reason for this?
A: I needed to write about my father. There were so many details and moments and stories that made up who he was to me, and I didn't want to forget. I needed to write about him to assure myself that I would remember. But I also needed to write about him so that I could start to let go of some of the harder moments of his illness and his death. In putting them down on paper, I got to take them out of my head and store them somewhere else. I didn't know it until I was deep into the book, but I still had a lot of grieving to do, and writing helped me to do it.
Q: Has your relationship with your mother changed in the years since the death of your father?
A: We were always close, and we still are. But we've become more intentional about spending time together. It's not easy, since we live far apart, but every year, the two of us go away together, just for a few days, and do lots of eating and drinking and catching up.
Q: From potato salad to Christmas cookies to Hoosier Pie, in the book you describe many recipes that are traditions in your family. Have you and Brandon created any new traditional recipes?
A: We 're still pretty fixated on Hoosier Pie, to tell you the truth! Old traditions die hard--or however the saying goes. But we're making new ones, too. Slowly but surely I've taken to making the same chocolate layer cake for our birthdays every year, and I get irrationally excited about it. I'm still working on the frosting, though. Maybe this will be my lucky year.
Q: What is your opinion of the slow food movement in this country? Do you believe it is on the rise? How do you think the current economy has or will affect it?
A: Anything that encourages people to eat more real food and less processed food, to find pleasure in cooking and sharing food, is a great thing.
Q: What are you working on now? Do you have plans to write another book?
A: Well, I'm into my third year of writing a monthly column for Bon Appétit and my sixth year at Orangette, both of which keep me busy! I'm also the de facto manager / wineglass polisher / baseboard scrubber / errand runner / CFO of Delancey, and that keeps me even busier. (Or crazier, depending on your point of view.) But I do want to write another book, and getting a start on that is my goal for 2010. Fingers crossed.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Wizenberg's debut shares the same basic format as her Orangette blog—favorite recipes interspersed with personal reflection—but constructed around a much tighter family narrative. Memories of her father, for example, begin with his cherished formula for potato salad and an attempt to recreate his French toast, but also include a variation on scrambled eggs that spurred a comforting moment as he was dying of cancer. The second half of the memoir focuses on her blossoming relationship with Brandon, who started out as a fan of the blog, became a long-distance boyfriend and eventually moved to Seattle and married her—of course, she shares the recipes for the pickled carrots they served at the wedding as well as the chocolate cake she baked for dessert. Though there is an emphasis on desserts, the recipes cover a variety of meals, none beyond the range of an ordinary cook, and Wizenberg's directions are laced with a charming voice that strikes a neat balance with the reflective passages. Her strong personality stands out among her generation's culinary voices. (Mar.)
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Top Customer Reviews
I preordered this book, being a longtime Orangette reader with unshaken trust in Molly's palate. The combination of ingredients in her Buchons Au Thons alone changed the way I consider food, flavor, and a can of tuna.
More than that, Molly writes about food the way I feel about food -- simple meals are intertwined with memories and people and how we become who and what we are. Even if I someday manage a perfect souffle, I will still crave my mom's egg salad sandwiches, white bread only, on Sundays in July.
I tend to fall into Nigella Lawson books -- she makes cooking look SO sexy and fun -- but the domestic goddess is missing an accessibility Molly manages easily. Her voice and the sometimes heart-rendingly personal stories she tells with each recipe really do bring you to her kitchen table. And then they give you a cookie.
From its simple, delightful design to the stories to the recipes that come with USEFUL instructions (seriously, so many recipes fail at this), this is already one of my favorite cookbooks. This, to me, is what food is about.
If I have one complaint, it's that the simple design doesn't allow for glossy 8x10 photos of each recipe's results. Thank god she's still got Orangette for that!
Good points first: she can write. And there's been nothing actually wrong with the recipes I've made. Nothing to blow my mind either (and how can Americans bear French Toast being so sweet?). But the problem is that it isn't what I expected. I cook savoury food and this is primarily a book of sweet recipes. Perhaps I would have known that if I'd explored the blog more. If you want to bake, then perhaps this is the book for you!
Also the Kindle edition has no decent contents page - the recipe titles don't include recipe names, which makes finding anything or flicking back and forth a nightmare.
In conclusion: If you're a baker, this might be worth buying in physical book form, but I wouldn't get the Kindle edition, and I wouldn't recommend it unless you're really into your sweets.
As delicious as the recipes are, however, this is not primarily a cookbook. The recipes are a bonus feature in as lovely a book of essays as I remember reading in--well, I think--ever. I don't much like essays, usually, but then I didn't think I'd like boiled kale either, and we're having that once a week now. If you skip the essays and only make the recipes, you'll miss the best of the feast.
Ms. Wizenberg's stories of finding her place have obviously been carefully crafted, with deft imagery, but they are also page-turners. You can't wait to see how each little episode ends, even though you know it ends with a recipe and the subject matter is familiar to us all.
She dusts the ordinary, whether she's writing about dough or death, with a shimmer of something that makes it special.
Oh the recipes are fantastic and simple, big hit with my non foodie friends.
Thank you for this book Molly look forward to the new book.