I received a copy of Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley a few months ago. (First Second, April 2013, 174 pages). While I eagerly devoured (expect many more food puns in this review) the book, I saved the review for this week's #fridayreads because this delicious graphic novel released this week.
Food is an integral part of our lives. It's tempting to start this review with stories of my own food culture, dishes cooked with families, and the flavors that always take me to a certain place and time. We could all spend days reminiscing in this way. And that is what this graphic novel is, a large reminiscence, a life told through food.
But while I grew up with good but traditional cooks in a Southern/Midwestern atmosphere, Lucy Knisley grew up with gourmet cooks in the middle of a New York food renaissance. This is the story of both a recognizable middle class childhood (divorced parents, travel, school, friends), but also of a lot of different foods.
The tales of childhood and young adult transitions are sweet without being cloying, substantial enough to fill you up, but not heavy enough to way you down in introspection like more literary memoirs. Instead what you will remember as you walk away from this book is the food. After reading this I added about 12 dishes to my "to cook" list. Besides descriptions of the dishes she ate, she includes cooking tips and handily illustrated recipes. Immediately before reading this my (future) mother-in-law and I tried a sushi recipe that we found on pinterest. It worked but not perfectly and thanks to the sushi tips in this book, I think I know what we did wrong.
Let me have one more tortured food metaphor. This book is a perfect summer picnic meal: filling, nutritious (helpful recipes!), memorable and fun. If you want a heavy feast of a graphic novel full of food for thought, try Maus. But when you just want a really good read without deep heavy issues, Relish hits the spot. I can't decide if I'm going to keep, pass along, or donate my copy. And I can't decide if I want to shelve it with graphic novels or cookbooks (or memoirs).