Holiday Gift Bag: Relish

Time for us to get back into our pre-holiday gift recommendations, so let’s take a look at Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley.


I am, I should say, an amazingly bad cook. I have enormous trouble putting a meal together that doesn’t involve either pouring milk on cereal or sticking a package in a microwave. For that reason alone, I was hesitant to get this book — it’s got a reputation as being a comic made for foodies and chefs, so I was concerned there’d not be anything in it for me. Obviously, I was wrong.

What we’ve got here is a memoir comic — Knisley tells a number of stories from her life. She introduces us to her New York City childhood, growing up among food lovers, chefs, restaurant critics, and people who loved to eat, prepare, and share food.

We follow her as she and her mother move to the country, slowly getting used to rural life and rural cooking. We tag along as she takes trips to Mexico, Japan, and Italy, as she discovers the food cravings she shares with her mother, as we explore her secret love of junk food, her quest to create the perfect croissant, and the worst meal she ever ate.

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.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The writing and art are both lots of fun. 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 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 her 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’re looking for a gift for someone who loves cooking and loves good food, you can bet they’re going to enjoy this. Go pick it up.

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