A lot of people have asked me if blogger Julie Powell of Julie and Julia fame is my blogging inspiration, and the short answer is no (but I did love the movie). My blogging inspiration is Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef. It’s hard for me to talk about Luisa without sounding like a
crazy stalker lovesick fan, so I will tell you right off the bat, this review is probably not my most unbiased.
I first discovered Luisa in 2008 when I stumbled upon her post for French chocolate granola, and I was immediately hooked. In addition to posting the most delicious and consistently winning recipes, Luisa is a very lovable person. She is gracious, kind, honest, vulnerable, passionate about food and family, and very wise and insightful without being the least bit showoffy. Truthfully, The Wednesday Chef is one of the few blogs I read with any consistency.
Unlike me, Luisa is the real deal when it comes to cooking. While not a professional chef, she has been cooking most of her life, mentored by a variety of German friends and Italian relatives. This memoir with recipes fills in a lot of the blanks that I wondered about as a blog reader. Luisa is an endearingly shy and reserved person, and while she shared bits and pieces of her life on her blog, I was always left with a lot of questions. I wanted to hear the story of why she gave up her enviable New York City life (complete with sweet and handsome fiance Ben, who is mentioned in much of her blog, and a good job in publishing) to move back to Berlin, the city she lived in as a girl. And I especially wanted to hear about how she met her husband Max.
Much of My Berlin Kitchen revolves around how Luisa got from point A to point B, but she also talks candidly about her childhood, which can best be described as loving but unconventional. After her parents divorced, Luisa moved between her American father in Boston and her Italian mother in Berlin. Food was the one constant in her life, anchoring her to memories of happy times and missed loved ones. I totally get that.
I know German food gets a bad rap, and sometime deservedly so, but don’t let that put you off. There are some wonderful classics as well as unique recipes in this book, German and otherwise. This is mostly a memoir with some special recipes sprinkled in, and the stories behind the recipes are so engrossing that I’m motivated to try most of them (but I may skip the goose). At this very moment, I am simmering Luisa’s Ragu alla Bolognese to put in my lasagne.
The moral of this beautiful story is Be Brave. As a very sensible non-risk taker, this is hard for me. It was very hard for Luisa, too, but in the end, following her gut and her heart got her exactly where she needed to be. The chapter about her wedding day was one of the loveliest things I ever read — truly a fairy tale with a heroine you are rooting for the entire time.
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