As regular readers of this blog know, I have been exploring graphic novels for the past six months or so and have discovered some that I’ve really enjoyed. So, when a blog reader told me about a graphic novel that is a memoir about food, I was sold! I love food and cooking and memoirs, so Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisely was right up my alley. I immediately requested it from my library and read it as soon as it came in. As expected, I loved this combination foodie memoir and cookbook.
The memoir covers Knisely’s childhood, from when she was very young through college and a bit beyond. She focuses on how food influenced her early life, which is, in her case, pretty much the full story of her childhood. Her parents were foodies, and she grew up among people who made their living through food – her mom worked in food stores, restaurants, and eventually opened her own catering business. Her godfather was a restaurant critic, and her dad was just an aficionado of great food. Knisely ate poached salmon as a baby on the day she was baptized, colored in a corner of the restaurant kitchen where her mom worked, and help her dad make homemade salad dressing each night for dinner.
|A memoir page from Relish by Lucy Knisely|
Place is almost as important as food in this memoir, and Knisely brings places and foods equally to life within its pages. She first lived in NYC with her parents and later in a small town in rural upstate NY with her mom where they had a garden and frequented farmer’s markets, both to buy and to sell. Later, Knisely attended college in Chicago, which was just experiencing its own foodie revolution at the time, and explored the unique flavors there as well.
Interspersed with interesting and amusing stories about her childhood are recipes, also written in graphic format. The recipes fit into her story and are an integral part of the flow of the whole memoir. She includes recipes for a wide variety of foods, everything from spice tea to marinated lamb to sushi to homemade pickles and more. The recipes are all simple and easy-to-follow, written with Knisely’s drawings not illustrating them but as the primary media (with simple written instructions alongside each picture). If you are a visual learner, you’ll love recipes written this way! They all sound delicious.
|A 2-page recipe spread from Relish by Lucy Knisely|
All in all, I absolutely loved Knisely’s memoir/cookbook and devoured it (pun intended) in just a few days. Her drawings are fun but realistic, and she has chosen stories from her early years that highlight food but also give you a complete picture of her childhood and the adult she became. It is both a coming-of-age story, as well as a celebration of good food and cooking. I was absolutely thrilled to learn that Knisely has written other graphic memoirs and immediately requested French Milk from my library, which I hope to start today. I thoroughly enjoyed this introduction to Knisely and her work and can’t wait to read more!
167 pages, First Second
NOTE: Although this is a book written for adults and is not marketed as YA, it would be perfect for teens or young adults who are interested in food and cooking or who just enjoy coming-of-age memoirs.