A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

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I have an unfair bias against memoirs. This may stem from the fact that many memoirs are written by people who are complete strangers, and I find myself wondering why their life should be of interest to me. With this book, at least, that unfair stereotype was certainly proved wrong!

Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life is a great example why someone else’s life may be incredibly interesting, simply because Molly’s life has been defined by food. And as she explains each chapter of her life for us, she provides recipes so we can experience the integral food too, if we choose.

It’s so much fun to see a life through the eyes of delicious foods. Molly shows that food is a communal part of our lives, helping to form lasting memories and lasting relationships. Food really can tell the stories of our lives, as Molly’s memoir/cookbook attests.

As she writes of her childhood, for example, she shares her dad’s excellent French toast. As she writes of her first trip to Paris, she writes of the bread and chocolate that defined her days.  As she writes of the holidays, she shares favorite holiday treats. And then, of course, there are her Paris recipes, and her best friends’ recipes, and her vegetarian boyfriend’s salad recipes. And Molly could just keep going, I’m sure.

But A Homemade Life is not just about the food. Molly’s memoir is excellently written, easily readable, and absolutely delightful. I know “delightful” is a cliché, but this book seriously fits the word without being cliché. It is real, and yet amusing and engaging all at the same time.

As Molly writes about her dad’s death, for example, I was in tears myself, thinking about the impact he had had on her life. His was an influence not to be forgotten. As Molly moved on with her life, she realized that. She subsequently learned to follow her dreams, even when they took the form of a food blog (Orangette). In fact, the only thing missing from this book are the gorgeous photographs Molly normally includes along with her blog posts on Orangette.

Many of the recipes Molly shares are a bit too “fancy” for my tastes. I’m primarily a family cook, and I don’t cook with specialty foods simply for cost reasons. “French style” cooking is not really my thing. But I do like simple food, and some of the recipes appear simple; at least a dozen and a half have entered my personal recipe file for future experimentation.

Molly’s story comes full circle, with the one center point in every part of her life being food.  In the end, I love the concept that foods, and not only the events, make up a life.

I would never think of delicious food as the center point of my childhood memories, and that’s okay. But it is encouraging to me that food can be such a staple in a life, and I look forward to making delicious food a memorable part of my family’s life going forward.

In the end, I can say I liked reading Molly’s story so much I intend to reread it someday. And cook her recipes.

What food memories do you recall from various stages of your life? As a child, I recall my dad’s pancakes on Saturday mornings. As an adult, I recall the risotto my husband made for me for one of our first dates.

A Homemade Life was a memoir read for The Spice of Life Challenge.

Other Reviews:

If you have reviewed A Homemade Life on your blog, leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.

Reviewed on July 20, 2009

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I am about halfway through this book and will post a review later this week. I too am loving this read and finding myself anxious to get out to the store so I can create some of her recipes.

  • I feel the same about memoirs, so the only ones I usually read are war memoirs, which interest me for some reason. This one does sound good, though.

  • Haha, okay I’m only posting this because you mentioned the book having “fancy” foods…

    My fond food related memories growing up? Sliced raw potatoes with salt. Yup. Still a hidden favorite. Cold mac & cheese – I actually enjoy it more cold and have been known to cook it, place it in the fridge, and then gobble it down. Umm..and microwaved cheese sandwiches.

  • Juliann, yes! Isn’t it inspiring? I love it.

    Kathy, you know it’s good when someone who doesn’t like memoirs likes it!!

    Anna, I think if you like food and/or want some recipes, this is a good memoir! But I have to agree, there has to be something about their life that makes it interesting to me. Just a “rotten childhood” is my stereotype in my mind, and that isn’t something I normally want to read!

    Jules, thanks so much! I’m honored!

    christina, isn’t that funny: my family eats raw potatoes too. It’s never been a favorite of mine, but I do remember eating it at the kitchen counter as my mother sliced it up. Sounds like your childhood food memories are similar to mine: not too “fancy.” 🙂

  • Tami, well, I’m probably the wrong person to ask because (1) I loved this book so I’m biased toward it and (2) I personally don’t like memoirs about subjects I’m not interested in so if I hated the subject maybe I’d hate it.

    That said, I’d say this book is about how food makes life enjoyable and memorable, and it’s not just about the cooking of the food. If that sounds like your thing, you’d probably love it.

  • I totally loved this one. I wanted to savor every chapter and make everything in it. I do typically enjoy memoirs, but this one really grabbed me.

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