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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Relish: My Life in th Kitchen, written and illustrated by Lucy Knisley. First Second, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2013. $19.99 ages 12 and up

"When I was little, my mother would often make me enormous plates of sauteed mushrooms in garlic. I wasn't a picky eater, I was exactly the opposite. I would try almost anything, and almost always found it delicious. But I was a craver. I craved the crispy chicken skin, salty and crackling..."
Lucy Knisley was born into a family (mother, father, herself) whose appreciation of food is chronicled in this graphic novel of her 'life in the kitchen'. Her mother is a chef, and has worked at many jobs within the food industry, taking Lucy with her to help with selling at the farmers' market, catering large and small functions and always encouraging the enjoyment of a wide variety of appetizing dishes. Her father loves good food, preferably made by someone else. He ensures that Lucy visits restaurants around the world, and within his neighborhood. Not all experiences are appreciated; they each contribute to her relationship with food. Neither parent appreciates the allure of processed foods or fast food restaurants, while she has a penchant (at times) for McDonald's fries and other tasty tidbits:

"Denied the grocery favorites of my classmates, junky foods became objects of curiosity and enticement to me, and my most parentally-abhorred form of rebellion. My discovery of Lucky Charms remains a particularly fond memory."

She tells readers of her travels with each of her parents to Rome, Mexico, Japan and on a backpacking trip through Europe with a friend...all have memorable connections with food. Some experiences are funny, others not so. All are shared with honesty, and put her readers right in the midst of the visit.

Her included recipes begin with chai tea. So prepare yourself a cuppa and settle in to fully appreciate a savory, tempting memoir of a life lived with food. At the end of next 11 chapters, she shares a recipe from her life and travels, accompanied by engaging and useful artwork.  

I love the graphics, her open and honest look at food and the part it has played in her life, and the joy she brings to the whole experience. It is a most enjoyable way to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon. Here's a warning: don't read it if you are hungry. You will only feel that hunger more and more with each turn of the page!  

After eight years in Chicago, she is delighted with her discoveries. But, she misses New York and wants to return to discover life there again. Also, she misses her mother's cooking. She leaves readers with something to think about:

"Bad habits or industrial compromises have forced many of us to reexamine our relationship to food and begin to embrace eating as a connection to our bodies and a form of celebration. We're still a young country, discovering new things, creating traditions of eating and sharing. Like me, still a young woman, learning about what moves me, what I want. What I love. And doing those things with excitement, curiosity and relish."

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