The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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September 28, 2015

Stir: my broken brain and the meals that brought me home

Oh, I did like this book, and its author, so much. I read it in long bursts over the past couple of weeks, because I didn't suspect how good it would be, and by the time I did so many people were waiting for it that I couldn't renew it at the library. I'd been thinking that I shouldn't buy books that I can borrow, but this was one I wanted for my own.

Jessica Fechtor was 27 or so, newly married, a Harvard graduate student living in Cambridge when an aneurysm in her brain exploded. She writes that it is the kind of brain injury that is usually fatal, and there were complications and a long and difficult recovery. She tells her story in such a strong, warm, real voice, telling us not just about her illness, but what came before it, and the husband, friends and food that helped her heal and thrive. With every story, there's a recipe, and that feels true, the same kind of food memory that you might have in your own life. (And they're very appealing, in their own right!)

One of the stories she tells is about starting her blog, Sweet Amandine, at a friend's suggestion, to be able to do something that was disconnected from her illness,  She writes that she named it for an almond butter cake {baked in a tart pan} that she learned from her stepmother. She remembers first tasting it when she came home from college, with the kind of telling detail that I think she does so well — that her stepmother is someone who sees a recipe in a magazine and doesn't need any other reason to try it.  There couldn't have been a nicer way to finish the book than to bake from it. I'm between cameras at the moment, and the photo I tried to take with my phone doesn't do it justice. But it was simple and delicious, and came out beautifully; I'll make it again, and it will be nice to tell someone the story it carries with it for me.


JoAnn said...

Your thoughts have me wanting to read this even more! Just put a hold on it... fingers crossed the timing will work out. In the meantime, I may just try that almond cake.

Lisa said...

This sounds really interesting - my fingers are crossed that the library has a copy.

I read something similar a few years ago, Cooking and Screaming by Adrienne Kane. I copied a lot of recipes from her book, a couple of which I'm still using today.

Thank you for visiting!

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