Saturday, June 13, 2009

by Matt McAllester

His was a most idyllic childhood. Food was the main centerpiece. Heavenly meals came from a whole dearth of cookbooks, the most important ones being the Elizabeth Davids. She surfaced in 1950 long before Julia Child. Family life was sublime for many years until Matt McAllester's mother started to decline into madness. Her illness was never properly diagnosed. Before she died, the doctors had finally figured it out, but it was already too late. She lasted until the age of 60.
It is very hard for Matt to come to terms with his grief. He keeps looking for her and reads old letters trying to understand what went wrong. Then he inherits most of his mother's cookbook collection. Through these recipes, he realizes that by cooking them, himself, he can find her and bring back his good memories.
Bittersweet was an absolute joy to read. The writing is gorgeous. I didn't want the book to end. Even though it was sad, at times, it was also powerful.
There are recipes interspersed and you just salivate with his descriptions of what he prepares. Family photos appear here and there.
McAllester has crafted a winner.
Highly recommended.

Monday, June 8, 2009

by Danzy Senna

In 1968, two young, intelligent Americans, from totally different backgrounds, were married. She was a white woman and descended from the DeWolfes with pedigrees a mile long.
He was a black man born to a single mother and an unknown father. Both of them were writers.
Eight years later, they would divorce.
Neither parent ever divulged much information as to their respective ancestral history, so Danzy Senna decides to do her own sleuth work. She goes to the Los Angeles Public Library and finds many books on her mother's family. Her father's side is a bit murky. He is a contradiction. The more Danzy digs, the more a family mystery unfolds.
Where Did You Sleep Last Night? is an absorbing tale of race and identity. Writing is, obviously, in her genes and Danzy certainly knows how to weave a terrific story.
Highly recommended.