“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.”
Relish was my answer to having to read a food memoir for work. (One of two food memoirs, actually, which is asking a lot of this fiction-only-please reader.) And, you know, it was a damn fine choice, if I do say so myself. First off, it’s a graphic novel. All of the lovely, lovingly drawn illustrations make settling in with non-fiction infinitely easier, because, speaking for myself, I know that the “long haul” isn’t going to actually be all that long. What would typically take me months to read flies by in a matter of hours spent looking at colorful details rather than solely reading – and promptly forgetting – them. Plus, Knisley’s recounting of her childhood, split between the city and the country but with food at its heart no matter where she found herself, was lively and engaging.
The book leads off with this:
How do you remember things? What are your clearest memories?…My most vivid memories consistently jog my brain with the recollection of how things tasted…Sometimes it’s frustrating, this selective memory. I can remember exactly the look and taste of a precious honey stick, balanced between my berry-stained fingers, but my times tables are long gone, forgotten, in favor of better, tastier memories.
Right then and there I knew Knisley and I were going to get along. One, what are times tables? If ever I knew them by heart I’ve also forgotten them, given them up to let favorite characters, songs, and scents have those pesky numbers’ place in my mind. Two, those things I just mentioned – books and certain scents, but music specifically – are very much associated with memories and my own stories of growing up. So I understood where she was going to be coming from with this memoir; I had a sense that tagging along into her past would be fun, and it so happened I was right on that score.
Along with stories about her days working alongside her mother at farmers’ markets, traveling with her father, and pursuing her education in Chicago are recipes, including one for chocolate chip cookies that you better believe I’ll be trying ASAP. The recipes seem easy to follow and are completely illustrated (of course).
Relish is a quick treat in and of itself.