Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Review - My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes)

My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes)


Luisa Weiss

Category: nonfiction, memoir, Germany, Berlin, food, cooking

Synopsis: Weiss, the daughter of an American father and Italian mother, raised in Germany and America, finds her place in the world when she falls in love with a German and settles down in Berlin.

Date finished: 21 March 2013

Rating: ***½

Comments: While I enjoyed this book, it wasn’t exactly what I expected. I’ve been following Weiss’s website for several months now, and while the recipes don’t usually appeal to me, there’s something that keeps me coming back. I suppose it’s her writing, her way of telling a story, or maybe, I realize now, it’s her larger worldview. What I didn’t really realize until I read this book was that she’s not a very chipper person—not a depressive, but not entirely cheerful. That’s the tone of this book, somewhat somber. It’s interesting to read a romance story told in this voice.
     What I found so interesting about this book (aside from the fact that I’m still unsure if the subtitle “A Love Story” refers to her relationship with her boyfriend-turned-husband, or her relationship with Berlin) was how the book was about something I’m not even positive Weiss intended. For me, the romance was secondary. The primary storyline here was “home.” What constitutes home? Where is home? Especially, where is home when your father is American, your mother is Italian, and you were raised in Brookline, Massachusetts and Berlin, Germany. The better part of the book was about Weiss finding the place she truly belonged. I’d never thought about this before. I was born and raised just an hour from where I now live. Home to me has always been a farm or a dorm room or student rental or apartment or a little ranch-style house on a corner lot. Home was never a question of which state or which country or which continent I found myself.
     I think this sense of dislocation, of not fitting in—or of fitting in too many places—was what lends the somber tone to Weiss’s story. Every time she settles somewhere, another of her homes beckons her back. In the end, though, she decides her home is Berlin.
     All in all, this was a well-written, even charming story. It suffered from poor editing (I found a half dozen errors within ten pages), which was too bad. It also offered a good introduction to German food (or at least Berliner food—if it differs from German food overall, I’m unsure). I found her recipes rather fussy and bossy, and chuckled to find she realized she was a bossy recipe writer, when she labels herself that on page 104.
     Here’s my favorite moment in the book, and it gives you an idea of the writing. A few minutes before midnight, she and her fianc√© decided to ditch a New Year’s Eve party they were on their way to. On their way home they come upon folks celebrating in the street.
It was a stunning couple of minutes. I felt so lucky to have had them. They were like a gift, like someone drawing open a heavy velvet curtain on the secret machinery of humanity and letting me have a few minutes to watch it all unfold. Thank you, I thought, sending my gratitude upward and outward to whoever was responsible for all that had happened to me in that impossibly hard and wonderful year. I could see it all now, the heartbreak included, as part of a continuum.
Would you recommend this to a friend?
Probably. Would appeal most to foodies, expats, and globetrotters.

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