The food memoir is a common literary recipe, sating appetites for sustenance as well as story, as reliable a pairing as grilled cheese and tomato soup. Enter a new classic in the larder: Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love and Food by the versatile Ann Hood (The Book That Matters Most).
Like the writing of M.F.K. Fisher, which Hood cites, Hood's prose packs a wallop in these nearly 30 essays. She chronicles her time as a young girl in a large, loving Italian family; a teen model for a department store; a TWA flight attendant; and a longtime writer, partner, mother, cook and knitter.
Each essay mixes memories with meditations. Woven into the mélange are recipes for what filled Hood's plate over the decades. Some are inspired by her mother's dishes. Some are meals she once cooked to impress a boy, or the man she would eventually marry. Some relate to her children. Hood lost her five-year-old daughter, Grace (see Comfort: A Journey Through Grief), and it's heartbreaking to read about Grace's Cheesy Potatoes--rich and Gruyere-sprinkled--once happily assembled by Hood's little blonde girl with glasses. Grace, Hood recalls, loved "layering the potatoes in concentric circles and evenly spreading the cheese." So many moments and meals in Kitchen Yarns shine, but perhaps this is the recipe to try first, in honor of Grace and the grace granted by cooking with loved ones. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer