“Lucy Knisley loves food. The daughter of a chef and a gourmet, this talented young cartoonist comes by her obsession honestly. In her forthright, thoughtful, and funny memoir, Lucy traces key episodes in her life thus far, framed by what she was eating at the time and lessons learned about food, cooking, and life. Each chapter is bookended with an illustrated recipe—many of them treasured family dishes, and a few of them Lucy’s original inventions. A welcome read for anyone who ever felt more passion for a sandwich than is strictly speaking proper, Relish is a book for our time: it invites the reader to celebrate food as a connection to our bodies and a connection to the earth, rather than an enemy, a compulsion, or a consumer product.”(via Goodreads)
Is it possible for me to review Relish without mentioning my own food-related memories? I have good ones (helping Mom make paella in her Spanish paella pan that’s older than I am) and bad ones (my brother sneaking such a liberal helping of wasabi onto my salmon-and-bagel sandwich as a kid that I still can’t stand the taste of it with sushi). Really, though, I just have a ton of food memories in general, because I think about food A Lot. Okay, basically all the time. It’s one of my great joys in life besides reading and sleeping, and if I could somehow tuck Relish under my pillow and absorb Lucy’s charming food-related memories through magical sleep osmosis, it would be my Bible.
Relish is episodic in nature, illustrating vignettes from the author’s life–her family’s Easter gatherings, her time working in a cheese shop, a trip to France and the croissants scarfed there–and some readers may find the fare a little light, but I found it perfectly tasty. (Ugh, okay. I’ll stop. I promise.) I feel like her illustration game is only getting better with time; the faces are simple but expressive, the colors are gorgeous. My food-loving roots aren’t as illustrious as hers (no professional chefs in my family, just a great cook of a mother who came from a family where they carved up the Thanksgiving turkey with a cadaver knife), but this is a case of the specific becoming universal. Anybody who’s fond of cooking and/or eating–and if you’re not, why did you pick this up?–will connect with the familiarity of the warm feelings that come off the page.
Well, that’s not wholly true. The book might alienate, say, folks who are against foie gras and the process of its creation, something I’m not personally comfortable with myself. It’s not the kind of book that really looks critically at eating habits and the impact that they have, globally or environmentally, and the author owns her love of goose liver. I don’t believe it’s particularly harmful in that way either, though, so that’s not the hill I’m gonna die on. That’s just not the book it is.
Overall, Relish is sweet and funny and pretty, and includes some recipes if you’re willing to give butterflied leg of lamb a go. I’ve only read the galley version of it, so I’m looking forward to having a bright, shiny copy of the real thing in my hands soon enough. You can read the first chapter here, and Relish will be out on April 2–a week and a half is plenty of time to go preorder it or look at her tour schedule, don’t you think? (I’m serious about that last one. Guys, she got special clothes made to match her book cover for the tour. Are you kidding me? I have to see that dress in person. Or the tunic, I’m not picky. GET IT? PICKY? I’ll go now.)