I just finished reading a lovely little book titled “A Feast at the Beach” by Willaim Widmaier. In the book he shares childhood memories of his summers in Provence, France (what a terrible childhood he had) with his grandparents. What I enjoyed most was that he included some delicious, old-world, mouth-watering French recipes that his grandparents served in their cozy cottage in St. Tropez. The recipes made his story come more alive for me while I envisioned the smells, tastes, and colors of the delectable dishes. It’s the kind of book I’ve not read often but enjoy when I happen upon one. (This one was a freebie offered at a recent writer’s meetup, so of course I took advantage.)
Another book I discovered several years ago, titled “How to Cook a Dragon: Living, Loving, and Eating in China,” details the life and food adventures of a Japanese woman (who is also a journalist) living in China. It’s a poignant tale laced with the most scrumptious recipes for authentic Chinese cuisine not seen here in America, unless you’re Chinese and cook them at home. Aside from the food, the story is delightful and a highly recommended read.
I enjoy books like these because they bring together food, family, friends, and their stories. I love to eat good food, share it with family and friends, and write/tell stories. They are the parts of life that bind together families, friends, and occasionally strangers. Not to mention that the authors are generous enough to share fabulous recipes with the world – and I am more than happy to take what they have given and add them to my kitchen repertoire. Language, food, and family are fundamentally tied together and books like these remind me of that. Makes me want to plan a family picnic and have everyone bring a family recipe dish.
The books I mentioned here also use language (names and ingredients of the recipes, conversations between characters in the books) as part of the story – in these cases, French and Mandarin respectively. Because I also love languages (and have studied/dabbled in several over the course of my life), I see how it connects food to culture and people. It has always fascinated me, the way culture/language develop around the various cuisines of the world. That’s why I like Anthony Bourdain’s shows (on CNN) – he connects food with people and their cultures, and makes the food seem all that much more delicious.
Do you have a story to share where food is the centerpiece? I started writing a draft for a cookbook/family photo album years ago and it’s still a work in progress. But I love that every time I work on it, I’m taken down memory lane and get to re-live so many of the delicious made-from-scratch recipes I grew up eating. If you have a story like that to tell, don’t keep it to yourself, share it. Share it and let the world revel in the smells, tastes, and colors of your life story.