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.
If you’ve hung around here for long enough, you’ll know that I’m a massive food geek. I’ve never quite worked out how to work food in with the book side of things here but if I’m not reading, I’m almost certainly either cooking, thinking about cooking or eating. One of the main reasons I got into running is that I’m super into food and see almost every occasion as an excuse to scoff but still want to be able to fit into my clothes. I’m a “foodie”, I guess you could say. What I am not is well-versed in the world of graphic novels.
Before this year, I’d never read a graphic novel as an adult. Maybe not even as a teenager. Things might have stayed that way had it not been for Relish: My Life in the Kitchen (which we’re now going to refer to as Relish because I’m lazy), And Hanna, who bought it for me for Christmas. It wasn’t that I had anything against graphic novels, it’s just that I didn’t really know where to start or whether I’d like them. It turns out that I do. Or at least, I liked this one.
The blurb makes it seem a bit like it will be a bit pretentious and ramble on about how we should have a deep connection to our food. It’s really not. Relish is adorable. Lucy Knisley’s love of food is infectious and reading about her experiences and memories felt comforting, somehow. Maybe because the illustrations make the anecdotes seem more personal than they would if this was a “normal” memoir. The drawings have an easy and relaxed feeling about them and the writing is warm and funny. Relish covers Knisley’s relationship with her food-loving parents, pivotal moments in her formative food years and various encounters of the scrumptious kind. It’s a simple theme but one that I just loved. I whipped through it in a couple of sittings and could have kept on reading for hours.
Tucked among the tales of perfect croissants and delicious cheeses are recipes and cooking tips. How to cook mushrooms without them becoming soggy and disgusting, for example, and how to make an indulgent spaghetti carbonara. I haven’t actually tried any of the recipes so I can’t say whether Knisley’s cookie recipe really will give you the perfect treat but I loved the way that they were written. The tone is light and chatty and feels a lot like sharing recipes with a fellow food lover. I can’t wait to get hold of some of Knisley’s travel memoirs and dig into some more of her culinary anecdotes.
Overall: A perfect segue into the world of graphic novels if you’re in any way into food. If you’re already a graphic novel aficionado, I don’t know what to tell you other than Relish is a cute, quick read that will leave you hankering for a plate of freshly baked cookies.
Date finished: 20 January 2015
Source: Gifted from lovely, lovely Hanna
Genre: Graphic novel; non-fiction
Pictured Edition Published: in April 2013 by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group