★ ★ ★
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley | April 2013 | First Second | Paperback $17.99
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.
This was a fun, honest, and engaging pick for my first book off of my “Foodies Read” list.
Relish is a comic-format memoir that focuses primarily on the author/artist’s experiences with food – or rather, on the way that food has been a big part of her experiences. It’s a series of stories about growing up with a nature-loving, farm-to-table cook for a mom and an enthusiastic foodie for a dad. It’s also about the way food is inextricably linked to her most treasured memories. And it is about coming of age as an artist and foodie in her own right.
I loved Knisley’s voice. She comes across as optimistic, kind, and able to see the humor in every situation she shares in this book. Even though she writes about her parents divorcing and includes at least one ex-boyfriend in a story, she never crosses that line into “woe is me, these relationships were terrible and these people ruined my life” territory. Not that “woe is me” stories can’t be great, sometimes. I just mean that the author/artist did a great job of focusing on the upside (and on the food).
The main thing that I wish had been different is that the book felt a little… shallow, maybe? Like, sure, I respect that Knisley chose to skip over the nitty-gritty parts of her relationships, but even the descriptions of her travels and the foods she tried weren’t that detailed. Usually when I’m reading a food-focused book I expect to be drooling at every other page. I at least want to be intrigued by the setting of any given meal, whether it’s a posh café in some European city or a little corner shop with cheap, chipped white saucers. And you’d think the graphic novel format would be ideal for that, but somehow Relish didn’t achieve it.
This book includes several illustrated recipes, which look interesting, but I can’t speak to their quality because I didn’t try any of them. I checked this book out from the library and just read a chapter or two during my lunch breaks over a few days.
I haven’t read any of Knisley’s other books yet, but I did check out her website hoping to find some more comics. I was not disappointed. At the end of last year she published a short but poignant comic about having a miscarriage. If you’re interested in checking out more of her work, check out her website (link below).
Publication information: Knisley, Lucy. Relish. New York: First Second, 2013. Print.
Source: Public library.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.