Friday, April 5, 2013

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

As a fan of shows like Chopped, Top Chef, and No Reservations, this was a graphic novel right up my alley. Lucy Knisley's account of growing up with a mother who is a catering chef and a father who is a foodie is an excellent concoction of memory, food, humor, and reflection. She illustrated vignettes from her various points in life, including participating in an upstate New York farmers market, a trip to Italy with her father, experiments with cooking on a budget in art school, and the trials and tribulations of entering puberty while on vacation in Mexico.

All along the way, her memories are mingled with the smells and tastes of food, the joys of which she communicates well, even though we cannot experience them directly ourselves. From crunching on tomatillos, to savoring particular jam-filled croissants, even enjoying guilty, non-gourmet (gasp!) treats like McDonald's french fries, she takes the reader on a journey that is simultaneously familiar, informative, and adventurous. In what is perhaps the best touch, she also provides recipes in each chapter for such diverse foods as carbonara, chocolate chip cookies, pesto, sangria, huevos rancheros, and sushi rolls.

The art in this book is vibrant, lively, and intelligent. Artist/writer Lucy Knisley is a Renaissance woman who sings and draws. Relish is her second graphic novel, the first being French Milk, a travelogue about a six-week trip to Paris. She speaks more about her life and works in this interview. She also occasionally blogs here.

Because of the atypical (for a graphic novel) subject matter, I have seen reviews for this book from some diverse sources. They have been resoundingly positive. Renee Shelton wrote about it, "This book makes for a quick read as her stories are hard to put down once you start and the comic book style illustrations make it easy to digest." Seth T. Hahne stated that the book fulfilled two goals for him: "1. Make Lucy Knisley seem like an awesome person with an infectious love for food." and "2. Infect the reader with that love for food." Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review and concluded, "this is a book that teenagers and parents will savor in equal measure." For me, reading this book was a joyful experience, like a breath of fresh air coming from a bakery.

A preview and more are available here from the book's publisher First Second.

A big thank you to Gina for the review copy!

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