Along the way to adulthood, I acquired one six-inch chef’s knife, a dark-green glazed cast-iron pot, and the growing realization that baking and cooking were not just a sure way to end up with a pan of warm brownies or a kitchen full of the fragrance of beef stew. Busying myself in the kitchen was how I conjured the people and places I loved the most in the steam rising off the pots on the stove. And when I came down with a rare and chronic illness known as perpetual homesickness, I knew the kitchen would be my remedy.
(from My Berlin Kitchen)
I admit that I’m not big on memoirs and I’d never heard of Luisa Weiss’ blog, The Wednesday Chef, but I wanted to read My Berlin Kitchen the minute I saw Berlin in the title. My mother was born in Germany (Freudenstadt, to be exact) and lived there until she was three. Since I can’t afford to travel to Germany any time soon, I have to settle for traveling there through books, and Weiss’ foodie memoir was just the ticket.
Weiss was born in Berlin to an American father and an Italian mother. After their split, she spent part of her time with one parent, then with the other, so it’s easy to see how she would grow up feeling confused about where she belonged. Even while living in New York City, she felt the pull to Berlin, mainly because of the food and the culture — and the man who would become her husband.
Somewhere along the way, she learned to cook, and then she began to blog about the various recipes she attempted in her own kitchen. Weiss isn’t a trained chef, and that’s what makes the book appealing to me. Every chapter ends with a recipe or two, and all of the recipes are ones I would actually try. In fact, I made the Kartoffelsalat (a potato salad with a marinade of white wine vinegar, chicken broth, and Dijon mustard) for my November book club meeting. It was pretty good, but unfortunately I didn’t remember to take a picture of it before it was all gone.
I really enjoyed My Berlin Kitchen, especially the voice and tone of the narrative. Weiss comes off as very likable, and her beautiful descriptions of the cooking process and the completed dishes reminded me of The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. I could almost hear the crackling and bubbling of the food cooking and almost smell the warm aromas. Needless to say, this book made me very hungry!
Weiss made me fall in love with Berlin, and I’ve never been there. I was captivated by her tales of crossing the border between East and West Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the changing of the seasons, apartment hunting adventures, and German holiday traditions. I honestly was surprised that I found a memoir I couldn’t put down. I enjoyed it so much that as soon as I turned the final page, I visited her blog so I could see what started it all and put faces to the names she mentions.
Subtitled “A Love Story (with Recipes),” My Berlin Kitchen is very much a book about love, but not just the romantic kind. Weiss writes about the love of family and friends, love for the country you call home, the love of food and cooking, and the simple joys of feeding the ones you love. There is a passion underscoring the narrative, and even if you can’t relate to her loneliness and confusion, you’ll most likely relate to the emotional connection between food and home.
Disclosure: I received My Berlin Kitchen from Viking for review.
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.