After losing her beloved partner, Jim, writer and home cook Ella Risbridger (Midnight Chicken) found herself in a tailspin. Soon after she moved into a new flat with her friend Jo, the Covid-19 pandemic sent London and the world into lockdown. In her second memoir-cum-cookbook, The Year of Miracles, Risbridger recounts a year of cooking and community, and how both provided healing in a time of great internal and external strain.
In these essays and recipes, Risbridger rambles charmingly. The narrative begins in winter, with a chicken carcass (being picked over at 4 a.m., naturally), then takeaway and "Leftovers Pie." As Jo and Ella settle into their new flat, Ella shares glimpses of (and sometimes recipes for) their more robust favorites, such as cardamom buns from the café she loves; eggs half a dozen ways (Turkish, Welsh, an omelet involving salt and vinegar crisps); and various soups both nourishing and comforting. Readers meet Mitski, the next-door cat who isn't theirs but comes over for scraps; various other friends in and out of London who help Jo and Ella stay sane; and Jim, often conspicuous by his absence but a presence just the same.
Watercolor illustrations bring the recipes to life, contributing to the book's slightly dreamy feel. Risbridger's recipes, both in form and content, swing between simple and fiddly, though all are within reach of dedicated home cooks. Risbridger writes sensitively about grief and navigates her loss honestly, relying on community. The book is a tribute, as Risbridger says, to "cooking, and the people who love you: the two greatest and most practical miracles of all." --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams