Business travel this week in Minneapolis and Memphis has made me so homesick. I return to Florida on Friday, but tonight, I am in my hotel room in Memphis, listening to the rain and what I think might be a distant, yet intermittent, tornado siren. I've heard that there may be tornadoes tonight and so to find comfort in it all, I've closed my night with crying through the last few chapters of the heartfelt and endearing The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry.
Ginny Selvaggio is twenty-six years old, and she's spent her whole life comforted with food. But not eating food, instead making it. Taking recipes and creating dishes, searching food blogs and trying new things. She is an adventurer in her life by searching the internet and reading new food techniques to try out, but she is an adventurer only inside her house. She's never moved out of her parent's home, and with their recent, unexpected deaths, along with her sister wanting to sell the house and move Ginny into her home, Ginny's feeling a little overwhelmed.
To cooking she goes. The process of caramelizing onions reassures her, the smells of chocolate occupy her during moments of stress, figuring out how the combinations of a spice with something sweet will enhance each. This is how she copes with it all. And right now, the oddest thing is happening. When she makes the recipes of those who have died, they come back to visit, sitting on the stool in the kitchen, only staying long enough while the smell of their food lingers. And because she can interact with them, she asks them questions, putting her on a path to find out who she really is, to find out why she is the way she is.
Ginny is something most people aren't. She's literal. Blunt. If you tell her that she's beating around the bush, she'd probably be confused and, while not looking right at you, respond with something like "I'm not beating around a bush. I'm standing right here." Not surprisingly, this type of personality doesn't win her a lot of friends.
And because this book is about cooking, and especially cooking the recipes from family that mean the most, I want to write a clever post with analogies of Ginny's cooking and Jael McHenry's beautiful writing, because the story is a fulfilling creation that leaves the reader, the one consuming, satisfied and full with happiness. But then I want to stop myself because I think that's what everyone else would do. Then, I think, as long as I share with you this important fact from me, it will be okay: this is a book I loved. I loved the quirkiness of Ginny, the tough outer shell of her sister Amanda, the soft comfort of their housekeeper Gert, and Gert's son, the confused and heartbroken David. I read the last half in two hours, making mental notes of each recipe I'll be cooking in my kitchen this weekend when I get home. I already like to cook, but this story gave me an even deeper, more holistic and appreciative view of it. The creation of equal parts sadness, family, love, and food into one flourishing finish of a story that will be devoured quickly, left me with a craving for Jael McHenry's next book.
If you like a dash of magical realism, along with cooking, recipes thrown into it all, then I'm pretty sure you'll like this book.
About the Author
Jael McHenry is a talented and enthusiastic amateur cook who grew up in Michigan and Iowa before moving from city to city along the East Coast: Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and now New York, where she blogs about food and cooking at the Simmer blog, http://simmerblog.typepad.com. She is a monthly pop culture columnist and Editor-in-Chief of Intrepid Media, online at intrepidmedia.com. Her work has appeared in publications such as the North American Review, Indiana Review, and the Graduate Review at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. In her senior year at Tufts University she appeared as a semi-finalist on the “Jeopardy!” College Championship, where she made a killing in consolation prizes. The Kitchen Daughter is her first novel.
Visit the author on her website by clicking here.
Follow the author on Twitter by clicking here.
Visit The Kitchen Daughter on Facebook by clicking here.
Many thanks to Lisa with TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to read this book. Upcoming tour stops are listed below - if you haven't visited the blogs below, now is the time!
All of the blogs reviewing this book and other books on tour can be found by clicking here.
Monday, April 11th: girlichef
Wednesday, April 13th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Thursday, April 14th: She is Too Fond of Books
Friday, April 15th: Book Club Classics!
Monday, April 18th: The Singleton in the Kitchen
Tuesday, April 19th: Back to Books
Wednesday, April 20th: Coffee and a Book Chick
Thursday, April 21st: Books Like Breathing
Monday, April 25th: Simply Stacie
Tuesday, April 26th: Book Reviews by Molly
Wednesday, April 27th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, April 28th: 2 Kids and Tired
Monday, May 2nd: The Brain Lair
Tuesday, May 3rd: Stephanie’s Written Word
Friday, May 6th: Book Addiction
Monday, May 9th: Farmgirl Fare
Tuesday, May 10th: Overstuffed
Wednesday, May 11th: Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
Friday, May 13th: The Literate Housewife Review