The Comfort Food Diaries

The Comfort Food Diaries

My Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend A Broken Heart

Book - 2017
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NPR's Best Books of 2017
Best Books on Food of 2017, The Guardian
Best Food-Focused Memoirs, Eater
Top 10 Narrative Food & Drink Books, Booklist
20 Best Cookbooks, The Telegraph

In the tradition of Elizabeth Gilbert and Ruth Reichl, former New Yorker editor Emily Nunn chronicles her journey to heal old wounds and find comfort in the face of loss through travel, home-cooked food, and the company of friends and family.

One life-changing night, reeling from her beloved brother's sudden death, a devastating breakup with her handsome engineer fiancé and eviction from the apartment they shared, Emily Nunn had lost all sense of family, home, and financial security. After a few glasses of wine, heartbroken and unmoored, Emily--an avid cook and professional food writer--poured her heart out on Facebook. The next morning she woke up with an awful hangover and a feeling she'd made a terrible mistake--only to discover she had more friends than she knew, many of whom invited her to come visit and cook with them while she put her life back together. Thus began the Comfort Food Tour.

Searching for a way forward, Emily travels the country, cooking and staying with relatives and friends. She also travels back to revisit scenes from her dysfunctional Southern upbringing, dominated by her dramatic, unpredictable mother and her silent, disengaged father. Her wonderfully idiosyncratic aunts and uncles and cousins come to life in these pages, all part of the rich Southern story in which past and present are indistinguishable, food is a source of connection and identity, and a good story is often preferred to a not-so-pleasant truth. But truth, pleasant or not, is what Emily Nunn craves, and with it comes an acceptance of the losses she has endured, and a sense of hope for the future.

In the salty snap of a single Virginia ham biscuit, in the sour tang of Grandmother's Lemon Cake, Nunn experiences the healing power of comfort food--and offers up dozens of recipes for the wonderful meals that saved her life. With the biting humor of David Sedaris and the emotional honesty of Cheryl Strayed, Nunn delivers a moving account of her descent into darkness and her gradual, hard-won return to the living.
Publisher: New York :, Atria Books,, 2017
Edition: First Atria Books hardcover edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781451674200
Branch Call Number: 641.5973 Nunn
Characteristics: viii, 310 pages


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May 20, 2018

This is the kind of book I search out and read in a day. If it's a memoir, about women, food and/or cooking themed, a travel quest, about overcoming adversity, about overcoming anything actually, and nothing having to do with kids or childhood or teens or young people finding themselves, I'm all in.

And honestly, I read this book so quickly that now I'm not even sure I finished it. Let me explain:

I checked out eight books on the same day and read almost all of them, but this was the last. It was due and I turned it in and immediately requested it again. Now I don't want to revisit it. It was a perfect book to read on a plane ride across country where I could concentrate and get lost in the misery.

The writing is easy breezy in a white older woman kind of way - like most food memoirs that I read so don't judge me - even though the theme of overcoming loss is the central conflict. Loss, in this case is losing a brother to suicide, losing a partner, losing a job, living in a city where your roots were only connected to your job and partner, and with all that losing her compass. Obviously she lost her compass long before as who takes a job in a city halfway across country where you know no one when you're working at The New Yorker? The New Yorker DINING section, with her own column, her own creation? I guess when your life is perfection and all you ever wanted, you say to yourself, "Hey, let's risk it all for something with much more chances of failure. Alone."

If I didn't finish it, it was because honestly, we've all had tragedy and she started to sound like some of my relatives who get stuck in auto-repeat. They bring up their trauma with family members over and over at every opportunity, twenty, thirty years later it's all, "Mom did this to me when I was in high school," and you just want to scream but instead you smile and remember to not bring up anything that has to do with mom or high school so you don't have to hear this story for the 100th time.

Kind of unfortunate, because it was touching and heartwarming to read everything she wrote about her family and friends in her small hometown. That was all I wanted to read about, and could read about for a thousand pages. In fact, if she had a column at The New Yorker about this piece of her life, I'd be her biggest fan.

Maybe instead of finishing it, which I'm still not sure I did, I'll just re-read those parts about her relatives, friends, and good people from her small hometown. That was the gem in this book and the reason I read memoir.

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