Graphic novel, written and illustrated by Lucy Knisley and published in 2013. As a memoir comic, the book is devoted to stories from Knisley's life -- and a lot of her life has focused on food. She grew up the daughter of a chef, friends with other chefs, food critics, enthusiastic foodies before anyone had invented the term "foodie." The book is dedicated, from beginning to end, to the joys of food, of cooking, of sharing food with family and friends.
I almost never picked this book up. I'm an amazingly bad cook. I have enormous trouble putting a meal together that doesn't involve either pouring milk on cereal, sticking a package in a microwave, or throwing some ham cubes into a bagged salad. My attempts to teach myself how to cook have been disastrous and, even worse, mostly tasteless. You wouldn't think it'd be possible to fuck up baked chicken, but I've done it. For that reason alone, I was hesitant to get the book -- its reputation is that it's a comic made for foodies and chefs, so I was concerned there'd be nothing in it for me. I'm lucky that I was gloriously wrong.
In addition to Knisley's childhood surrounded by foodies in New York City, we also follow her after her parents' (extremely amicable) divorce, when her mother moves her to the country, and Lucy has to get used to slow rural life and less formal rural cooking. We tag along as she takes trips to Mexico, Japan, and Italy, enjoying new experiences and cultures and lots of new foods. We watch her discover the food cravings she shares with her mother, we see her explore her secret love of junk food, we follow her quest to create the perfect croissant, and we learn about the worst meal she ever ate -- and why she still considers it a positive experience.
And after almost every chapter, we get a recipe.
Marinated lamb, pesto, chocolate chip cookies, huevos rancheros, sushi rolls, sangria, shepherd’s pie, and much, much more. All of them wonderfully illustrated to help make the entire process easier and cooler. Even as a non-cook who doesn't even like some of the food described, I wanted to try these recipes so bad.
The writing and art are both lots of fun, and Knisley’s stories are grandly human and often hilarious. Her childhood trip to Mexico with an old friend is spotlighted with -- aside from all the glorious details of the food they got to eat -- her friend’s acquisition of a colossal stash of pornographic magazines, which he carted all over in his overstuffed backpack, convinced he’d purchased the greatest treasure of his life. Her attempts to make her own croissants as perfect as the ones she tasted in Venice are constant but hilarious failures, and her recipe at the end of the chapter recommends that readers just get the canned croissants at the grocery store. And during her teenaged trip to Italy with her foodie father, she rebels by... eating at McDonald’s.
And her skill at writing about all the glories of food -- good food, gourmet food, junk food, comfort food, and every other kind of food -- is where this comic is really just absolutely fantastic. I’m a terrible cook, and I have a terribly unsophisticated palate -- but Knisley's writing, art, and recipes make me wish I were more of a foodie and that I was capable of navigating my way around a kitchen.
If you love cooking and good food -- or, in fact, even if you don't -- this is a comic you'll probably want to pick up.