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A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table

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When Molly Wizenberg's father died of cancer, everyone told her to go easy on herself, to hold off on making any major decisions for a while. But when she tried going back to her apartment in Seattle and returning to graduate school, she knew it wasn't possible to resume life as though nothing had happened. So she went to Paris, a city that held vivid memories of a childhood trip with her father, of early morning walks on the cobbled streets of the Latin Quarter and the taste of her first pain au chocolat. She was supposed to be doing research for her dissertation, but more often, she found herself peering through the windows of chocolate shops, trekking across town to try a new pâtisserie, or tasting cheeses at outdoor markets, until one evening when she sat in the Luxembourg Gardens reading cookbooks until it was too dark to see, she realized that her heart was not in her studies but in the kitchen.

At first, it wasn't clear where this epiphany might lead. Like her long letters home describing the details of every meal and market, Molly's blog Orangette started out merely as a pleasant pastime. But it wasn't long before her writing and recipes developed an international following. Every week, devoted readers logged on to find out what Molly was cooking, eating, reading, and thinking, and it seemed she had finally found her passion. But the story wasn't over: one reader in particular, a curly-haired, food-loving composer from New York, found himself enchanted by the redhead in Seattle, and their email correspondence blossomed into a long-distance romance.

In A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, Molly Wizenberg recounts a life with the kitchen at its center. From her mother's pound cake, a staple of summer picnics during her childhood in Oklahoma, to the eggs she cooked for her father during the weeks before his death, food and memories are intimately entwined. You won't be able to decide whether to curl up and sink into the story or to head straight to the market to fill your basket with ingredients for Cider-Glazed Salmon and Pistachio Cake with Honeyed Apricots.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published March 3, 2009

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About the author

Molly Wizenberg

5 books506 followers
I started out as a food writer focused on home cooking, using food as a lens for peering into everyday life and relationships. I was interested in people, in how we find and make meaning for ourselves. I still am. My latest book, The Fixed Stars, is a memoir about sexuality, divorce, and motherhood. I wrote it because, in my mid-thirties, nearly a decade into marriage and newly a mother, I lost track of who I was. I wrote because I wanted an answer; in the process, I came to find that I liked the company of questions. The Fixed Stars will be published by Abrams Press on May 12, 2020.

I am also the author of A Homemade Life (Simon & Schuster, 2009) and Delancey (Simon & Schuster, 2014). Both were New York Times bestsellers. Before all that, I got my start in 2004 with a blog called Orangette, which won a number of awards, including a James Beard Foundation Journalism Award in 2015. The blog is now dormant-ish. Can’t decide what to do with it. I have written for Bon Appétit, The Washington Post, and Saveur, and in a previous lifetime, I co-founded (with chef Brandon Pettit) the award-winning Seattle restaurants Delancey and Essex. Last but not at all least: I co-host (with my friend Matthew Amster-Burton) the food-and-comedy podcast Spilled Milk, specializing in dumb jokes and chewing noises since 2010.

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5 stars
5,077 (31%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,897 reviews
Profile Image for Heidi.
32 reviews7 followers
April 13, 2009
Every once in a while I come across someone who makes me wonder. What I was doing when God was handing out talent? No, really. WHAT was I doing? Begging some mid-level angel to send me to a pastry-making family in Paris while rocket-science intellect and supermodel looks were being passed out like Halloween candy two lines down?

One thing’s certain: I was not in line with author Molly Wizenberg. Actually, I’m not sure anyone was in line with her that fateful pre-mortal day. She reminds me of the kid who is the last trick-or-treater of the night so you dump the entire bowl of candy into her bag. I think God did just that – He dumped an entire bowl of talent into her bag.

Yes, this is a cookbook, but not in the glossy photo Barefoot Contessa sort of way. Instead, each recipe is introduced with an essay that is so well-written and downright charming you’ll immediately forgive Molly for not having any pictures. The essays are all I really paid attention to. I breezed past the recipes so I can’t tell you if the chocolate cake, which has enough butter to make your cardiologist gasp, is a keeper. Or if pickled grapes are as delicious as Molly promises (I’m not optimistic).

But this book isn’t about the recipes. It’s about why the recipes matter. Knowing if this book will matter to you is easy: check out Molly’s blog at http://www.orangette.blogspot.com. If you like the blog you’ll like this book.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,612 reviews2,580 followers
December 12, 2015
(4.5) Foodoir extraordinaire! Along with Ruth Reichl’s Comfort Me with Apples, this tops my foodie reading of the year. I liked it even better than Delancey, which is a terrific book about opening a pizza restaurant in Seattle with her husband. Here we get the prequel: the death of her father Burg from cancer, time spent living in Paris, building a new life in Seattle, starting her now-famous food blog (Orangette), and meeting her husband Brandon through it. Each brief autobiographical essay is perfectly formed and followed by a relevant recipe, capturing precisely how food is tied up with her memories:

I write about food and cooking, and in that sense, I aim to be informative, but I write about my life some, too, since it intersects with food roughly three times a day. I don’t think many of us are terribly interested in recipes that have no stories or real-life context. For me, the two are inseparable. One is pale and boring without the other.

Wizenberg’s very fond of salad, but also of cake, and every recipe is full-on in terms of flavors and ingredients. None of your low-fat, cutting-corners nonsense here; just straight up delicious food. I made her chocolate cupcake recipe (in cake form) for my husband’s birthday, and I’d eat any of the other dishes described.

Other favorite passages:

A classic among classic French desserts, tarte Tatin is essentially a sexed-up apple pie—a housewife in stilettos, you could say. It starts with wedges of apple caramelized to a deep amber, their juices mingling with butter and sugar to yield a complex flavour that verges on hard cider. Covered with a sheet of puff pastry, baked to golden, and then inverted, the apples sit coyly atop their many-layered blanket like Ingres’s Grande Odalisque on her chaise. Dolloped with crème fraîche, tarte Tatin doesn’t dally with small talk. It reaches for your leg under the table.

Like my mother before me, I’m a baker by nature: precise, obedient, and fiercely devoted to my digital scale. My mother taught me early on that a recipe should always be followed strictly the first time through, with no tweaking or second guessing. You give it an honest try, see how it goes, and then you can tinker to your heart’s content. … I find a deep, abiding satisfaction in following instructions.

(all the more ironic, then, that she married a kitchen innovator who makes things up as he goes along – and is strangely obsessed with pickling things)
Profile Image for Anne.
2 reviews
March 6, 2011
I'm sincerely baffled by the glowing reviews and book jacket blurbs from talented, capable writers and chefs like David Leibovitz. This book is AWFUL. The writing is trite and painfully unedited; Molly Wizenburg writes as if she's 60 and writing a touching memoir, when she in fact is oversharing about her twenties only a couple years later. The whole thing was overly precious and read like the diary of a 14-year-old who thinks she is a special unicorn because her parents love her and she met a boy. Actually, she includes an excerpt of food writing she did when she was 16, and she really hasn't developed much since as a writer.

This book is Exhibit A of why blogs don't always make good books, and need some work between the two mediums to make the shift. None of these chapters would have bothered me as blog posts - in fact, I like Orangette. This should have been published as a collection of recipes with glossy photos. One star for the book, one star for the recipes (which actually do look really good).
Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,111 reviews1,398 followers
January 20, 2020
A Homemade Life was an impulse read: I'd been seeing Wizenberg's forthcoming memoir being promoted around the interwebs, got curious about her stuff, noticed my library branch had a copy of her first book, checked it out, and read it pretty much right away. I knew it was based on Wizenberg's food blog Orangette (which I'd never visited), so I was expecting it to be episodic in nature, which it was. What I hadn't expected was that it would be so charming. The writing is wonderful, some of the subject matter is difficult but it's all heartwarming, the travel elements are beautifully evocative, and the recipes sound AMAZING. It's actually unfortunate that I took this out of the library because I really want to try a bunch of the dishes, so I guess I'll have to get my own copy. I read this really quickly and was sorry when it was over, and I'll be reading her second memoir ASAP. Recommended if you're looking for a fun foodie read.
230 reviews14 followers
April 21, 2009
I read this immediately after It Sucked and Then I Cried, and that was probably one too many books-based-on-blogs in a row. I don't read her blog, Orangette, but I'm guessing this material works much better in blog format. It was very lightweight.

Also, while I'm glad the author and her husband are happy, she's really gushy about their relationship. She sounds very young. It's like Twilight, but with cooking instead of vampires.

None of the recipes jumped out at me as anything I want to make.
Profile Image for Jaclyn.
167 reviews37 followers
March 5, 2009
I laughed, I cried, I put bouchons au thon on my weekly menu.

Molly Wizenberg is basically my generation's M.F.K. Fisher. Her recipes are fantastic, her descriptions are apt... but that all pales in comparison with the simple fact that her writing is full of life and joy. I've been a follower of her blog, Orangette, for some time now and I find I can always rely on Molly for a great recipe, wonderful story and stunning photography. But the book transcends that - it's something more. It's a glimpse into a life that, while young and nowhere near over yet, has been exceptionally well-lived. Molly is committed to eating well, laughing deeply and often, and loving joyously - and she has carried out that mission both in times of tragedy and of great happiness. I can't imagine how anyone can do better, and I'm so grateful that she shares peeks into her life every week on Orangette and in this delightful book.
Profile Image for Nute.
42 reviews47 followers
June 16, 2010
I picked up this book because I really wanted to know how someone has a blog one day and a decent selling book the next. Yes, I understand that it probably didn't go down quite that simple, but you know what I mean.
That's what I wanted to find out from reading this book. But before I started reading it, I checked out Molly's blog site, Orangette.

After visiting Orangette, I just wanted to get to know Molly and try cooking her recipes. I knew that I had a real love for food as deep as hers, and if I could express it in words, it would be in the stories of my life, just like hers.

Molly makes me want to eat my way through life. Through its joys. Through its sorrows. Through its ordinary days. Making everyday memorable and extraordinary through the recollections of food experiences. Making friendships and family relationships shine even brighter as they are recalled over the favorite meals that we shared.

A Homemade Life made me realize that my life is already filled with these kinds of moments; I just needed to be prompted to cherish the memories.
Profile Image for Ciara.
Author 3 books349 followers
June 21, 2009
i would have given this book four stars, because i have tried a few of the recipes & they are pretty delicious, & the book definitely inspired me to cook more & experiment in the kitchen, which is awesome. but halfway through the book, which seems to a be a loosely chronological cooking-related autobiography, the author marries some dude she met through her blog & the qaulity of both the writing & the recipes went way downhill. the dude she married is vegetarian (maybe even vegan?). i can vouch for the fact that vegetarians eat plenty of delicious food & there are many exciting vegetarian recipes in the world, but pretty much all she offers from here on out are salad recipes. who the fuck needs a recipe for salad? it's seriously shit like, "wash off some lettuce. sprinkle with vinagairette. garnish with ground pepper & a few sliced cherry tomatoes. serve." um...thanks. i never could have figured that out on my own.

i also have a bit of an issue with people writing about losing their parents when their parents are really old. if your parent dies & is older than 70, that's really sad & i don't want to diminish the extent of your loss, but also, zip it. or at least have some respect for those of us whose parents have died at way younger ages. i don't like to get into death-related pissing contests, but i would definitely like to read more stuff from folks my age whose parents died relatively young. i find it difficult to relate to people who lost a parent to cancer at age 78 or whatever. i was barely 23 when my dad died. he was only 48. no one saw it coming. i don't know. the author's dad certainly sounded like an exciting cook, & i'd try his french toast recipe if i weren't afraid of seizing up & dying from a grease-induced heart attack on the spot, but we all have to deal with our parents dying eventually (if we're lucky & actually out-live them). sucks, but deal.

my far larger issue was all the writing about how great her husband is, how they fell in love through her blog when he wrote to ask if she had a certain cake recipe a friend was seeking, all the preparations that went into their wedding menu, etc etc. here's a tip from me to the rest of the world: your romantic relationships are really interesting to you & hopefully to the people you have relationships with. the rest of really do not give a fuck. we don't care about your delight over the way his hair curls, or how anxious you were about your outfit the first time you met. we don't really need forty pages detailing the way you basically ripped off your friend's wedding wholesale but made your own cake. we just don't care. i love my partner too, but i don't labor under the delusion that anyone else gives a fuck about it. despite the fact that he is also a really good cook.

like i said, this book made me want to cook, & that is a good thing. it also kind of made me want to go to france, but i hope i have the self-respect not to have a redezvous with a french teenage boy who never calls me again & causes me to weep & then write about it years later in my memoir. (especially because i'm almost 30, so hooking up with teenagers would be gross on a lot of levels.) i get kind of sick of solidly middle-class americans going on & on about their love of france as if it gives them some mysterious je ne sais quois & evidence that their fondness for cooking is truly sophisticated because it was honed in a country famous for its cuisine, but...whatever. i kind of chose to like this book, & i probably could have hated it if i'd read it in a different mood. but the custard-filled cornbread recipe is really good. eat it with honey instead of maple syrup.
Profile Image for Beth.
546 reviews11 followers
March 27, 2009
I heard of this book from a couple of sources and decided to pick it up. I now feel that Molly Wizenberg and I are best friends, and I have not yet even visited her blog, called Orangette. Great bedtime reading, as the "chapters" are quite short, each ending with usually one but maybe two recipes---and then I'd tell myself, "what would one more hurt?" so I'd read more. Her recipes are written as prose, leading you through each step. Along the way, she writes about her childhood, (and since she is the same age as my oldest, I can relate to that), her family in great detail, her love of things French, and the entry of the love of her life. She makes such simple things so satisfying to read about, like everyday stuff we all experience, and yes, all of them are food connected. I'd really never thought about that, and it was truly food for thought, excuse the pun. I intend to check out Orangette for sure, and also intend to try her recipes--somehow I don't think they'll disappoint. Mostly, I hope you get the idea that this book was WAY more than I had expected, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who reads this...heartily. For me, this is the height of satisfaction. If I lend it to you, I'd better get it back!
Profile Image for Laurie.
644 reviews6 followers
March 7, 2009
Molly Wizenberg has a wonderfully flattering way of writing about food and people. She makes both sound delightful. While readers of A Homemade Life will wish they could sit down with Molly over salad and cheese, they will especially wish they could know all these charming people: her father, mother, husband, and various friends in Oklahoma, Paris, and Seattle. Molly describes each in a vivid way that says, "I love this person! I want to share him with you." And with each person comes a recipe. I am looking forward to making Burg's potato salad, Lisa's scones, Brandon's chana masala, and Molly's chocolate cake. A Homemade Life is a winning book about Molly and the people in her life. We are fortunate to get to meet them, and eat with them, too.

Profile Image for Lynn Cahoon.
Author 87 books1,987 followers
March 21, 2021
I love a cookbook with a story. Molly brings to life her food and her world as we cook our way through her Homemade Life.
Profile Image for Gina.
636 reviews8 followers
April 3, 2009
This book encompasses two pet peeves of mine: the blog-to-book craze and the cookbook-book combination. Blogs fodder is not always great book fodder. I enjoy a well-written blog, but I am less forgiving of a book that is not so well-written. I am not saying this book is not well-written, but I do think that the flow of the stories feel more like blog posts than short stories to me.

As for the cookbook/book issue, it's a personal matter of wondering where to house a book like this. Is it a proper book that should reside on the bookshelf, or is it a cookbook that should be used and show some signs of use?

I enjoyed this book, and I found a few of the stories rather touching. However, I also found myself rushing through a few stories because they were too "personal journal" for me.

Overall, this is a nice collection of recipes and their backstories.
Profile Image for Anne Bogel.
Author 7 books55.1k followers
August 17, 2012
Sweet story, excellent food writing, and solid recipes. Plus, the blogger in me loved how the internet introduced the author to new, life-changing relationships.
Profile Image for jess.
848 reviews71 followers
November 16, 2009
While I am skeptical of blogs-to-books, and have spent considerable hours of my life dissecting the genre in recent months, I really wanted to love this book. First, the author lives in the PNW. Me too! (Only 60 miles north of me, Molly Wizenberg has a restaurant.) She's from Oklahoma, but left the minute she could. Hey, me too! She had a long-distance sweetheart who became her spouse. Wow! Me too! So, imagine my surprise when I, self-identified emotional sap and carbohydrate connoisseur, became the first person in the universe to not adore this book.

So the first half of the book is dad stuff, family, the food, France, and a little misdirected romance of youth. Then the second half is the True Love, the marriage, and more of the food. Molly describes her LDR, the airports, the once-a-month "vacations," the courtship, the marriage, and I totally get their fresh-faced new-soul worshipful love, down to the description of her spouse as "magic," while he is proposing marriage over and over long after the wedding has passed. This is what I want to remember about this book, becuase I inhabit that space, too. I agree, gentle reader, it is completely and totally wrong that I liked the part about love BEST in a book about food.

And Molly cooks simple, honest, earnest food with fresh, local ingredients. Her food stories sound delicious and I have heard from friends that their restaurant is pretty good. Some day I will go there and eat their heirloom tomato salad. This was a blog-book I should have adored, but it just never really measured up to my expectations. I never read Molly's blog, Orangette, even though I know it is super famous. I thought I could avoid the death trap of "we already read all of this on your blog," although through some careful google-ing, I was able to determine that the book more often than not just sums up her blog. The vignettes aren't strong enough to carry the book, although many of the stories are quite funny and heartwarming and heartbreaking. By the end, I liked Molly a lot, but I do not want to read anymore of her books, which are as of yet unwritten but which I am sure she will write, because she is wildly successful and beloved.
Profile Image for Allison Floyd.
490 reviews57 followers
September 6, 2011
The problem with criticizing memoirs is that it always feels like a personal attack on their authors, particularly when the author is your age, you both have dead fathers, and maybe just maybe there’s a little green-eyed monster sitting on your shoulder hissing “Hey! I can write at least as well as this! Where are MY book deal, freelance column with Bon Appetit, travel writing assignments, and True Love?” Which is of course unseemly.

Maybe if I were a regular follower of the blog, I’d get it, but…

My problem with this book is best illustrated thusly: “I promised to tell you about the young Frenchman, and it is kind of a good story, so I won’t make you wait.” In response to which I can only feel like the author and I are on a bus, or in the post office, or some other uncomfortably crowded public place, and she, donning a tea cozy with a cloying lavender and pale pink floral pattern on her head, is leaning in uncomfortably close, in flagrant disregard of my space bubble, and carrying on as if we were long lost sisters. In response to which I can only suppress the urge to say, “GAH! Get thee behind me woman! I don’t even know you. We are not having a heart-to-heart over chamomile, and moreover, we NEVER will.”

An unfair criticism of something that is, after all, a MEMOIR? Probably. But lesson learned: if it’s a personal food narrative and doesn’t contain some reference to bones or meat in the title, then the reading of such is probably a doomed endeavor.

Nevertheless, I made it to the end, so something kept me coming back, and it’s not just the drinking of the haterade. Despite that it commits many cardinal sins (lionizing France—I mean, do we really need another memoir that does that?; frequent use of the second-person; the incorporation of a high school essay), it has its moments, and was a nice, comforting book to read during moments of insomnia and before going to bed, like warm milk (with maybe too much sugar added) for the soul.
Profile Image for Julie.
614 reviews13 followers
March 3, 2016
I'm a fan of the Spilled Milk podcast, which Molly Wizenberg does with Matthew Amster-Burton, so I was pretty sure I would like this book, and I did. I especially loved how she told the story of her romance with her husband through recipes. The descriptions of Paris made me want to get on the next plane. All in all, an engaging book. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Les.
815 reviews11 followers
December 3, 2021
Years ago, when I was first got into blogging, I stumbled upon some non-book related blogs filled with beautiful photographs of home interiors and delicious-looking meals that satisfied my desire to live (and appreciate) a more simple life. Shauna Ahern's blog Gluten-Free Girl was one of the first sites that caught my eye and I looked forward to each new post about her life in Seattle with her husband, who at the time was a chef at a local restaurant. It wasn't just stories about their lives, but the enticing recipes that kept me reading. It was on Shauna's blog that I learned about Molly Wizenberg (who was also living in Seattle) and started following her posts on Orangette. At the time, my husband and I were living in Nebraska and we both yearned to move to the Pacific Northwest, so I lived vicariously through these blogs with each mention of Seattle and the surrounding areas, recognizing specific places we'd been to while visiting my dad and stepmom (who were living on Lake Union on their boat during that time).

As is the way of early blogs of the late 90s and early 2000s, and much to my disappointment, Gluten-Free Girl and Orangette are now defunct. However, both women have fairly recent published works, which is exciting for this lover of foodie memoirs. Shauna's collection of essays (Enough) was released in 2019 and Molly's third memoir (The Fixed Stars) was published in 2020.

I've had Wizenberg's first memoir on my shelf for about a dozen years and finally pulled it from that shelf and read it this month for Nonfiction November. I don't know why I waited so long; I loved everything about it! Each chapter reveals a little bit more about Molly's childhood, time spent in France, and life as a young woman living in Seattle. The anecdotes dovetail neatly with specific recipes, many of which I have marked to someday try.

Wizenberg's writing is conversational, yet polished, and the pages practically turned themselves. It was easy to read a dozen or so stories each night, telling myself, "just one more." Now that I've finished, I can't wait to get a copy of Delancey, which continues with Molly and Brandon's story. (Delancey is also the name of their restaurant in Seattle.)

Like most people who love to cook, I like the tangible things. I like the way the knife claps when it meets the cutting board. I like the haze of sweet air that hovers over a hot cake as it sits, cooling, on the counter. I like the way a strip of orange peel looks on an empty plate. But what I like even more are the intangible things: the familiar voices that fall out of the folds of an old cookbook, or the scenes that replay like a film reel across my kitchen wall. When we fall in love with a certain dish, I think that's what we're often responding to: that something else behind the fork or the spoon, the familiar story that food tells.

These are some of the recipes that I'd like to sample (listed for future reference):

Burg's Potato Salad
Blueberry-Raspberry Pound Cake
Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger
Burg's French Toast
Chocolate Cupcakes with Bittersweet Glaze
Hoosier Pie
Fresh Ginger Cake with Caramelized Pears
Dutch Baby Pancakes with Lemon and Sugar
Jimmy's Pink Cookies
Doron's Meatballs with Pine Nuts, Cilantro, and Golden Raisins
Cider-Glazed Salmon
French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon
Butternut Soup with Pear, Cider, and Vanilla Bean
Caramelized Cauliflower with Salsa Verde
The Winning Hearts and Mind Cake

A Homemade Life is certain to appeal to readers who loved Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking, Ann Hood's Kitchen Yarns, and Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone.
Profile Image for SheReaders Book Club.
344 reviews30 followers
April 23, 2018
I have long loved Molly’s Spilled Milk Podcast with Matthew AB and knew that I would eat up her book as well but even going in with that mindset, I was still pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed and whizzed through this book! I couldn’t find it for the longest time (I know, the internet). I insist on being thrifty when it comes to books. I like it to feel more like a treasure hunt and a major win when you find one that you’ve been pining for. Thank you, library used book sale for this wonderful prize! I’m going to give it to my Grandma and then make some of those recipes to share. There are no photos in this book which I came to appreciate because your imagination works great and you are never disappointed with your own results when comparing to a professional photo. This also made me pay more attention to the recipes and the assembly of each dish instead of just looking at a picture and making up my own methods.
Profile Image for Ron.
Author 13 books75 followers
December 8, 2008
Based on Wizenberg's "Orangette" blog, this memoir trades off anecdotes of her family and the blossoming relationship with a fan of her website (reader, she married him) with recipes keyed to certain memories. There's a lot of desserts, but also some pretty nifty-sounding salads, and a simple formula for pickled grapes I can't wait to try. I might even take a crack at the tomato soup with fennels if I ever have a spare afternoon to myself...

Wizenberg's an engaging raconteur, keeping the grand architecture of the memoir loose enough to handle some skipping around, and the recipes all seem pretty straightforward and accomplishable.
Profile Image for Kerri.
452 reviews2 followers
October 7, 2018
Pleasant but not overly deep book. Well, it's basically reading a blog. Sometimes the posts work. Sometimes they don't. The married for 18 year part of me found the romance portions eye rolling worthy but the part of me with aging parents found the middle section deeply moving.
Profile Image for Tina Culbertson.
554 reviews19 followers
October 8, 2012
Molly really spoke to me. I read this book and I felt I was having a conversation with her. Some bits were like reading a letter from someone I knew well, someone who poured out their heart and feelings. She is so much younger than I am but I sure could relate to so many things she wrote about. From the unresolved feelings regarding her father’s death to the cautious delight of falling in love with her soul mate. The calm and focus that creeps in when you are immersed in preparing food for people you love and her unapologetic Francophile side. (seems so many are determined to hate the French these days…)

In the beginning of the book she talks about the clean-as-you-go rule (I always do, it’s just easier) and warns to read recipes all the way through before you start. Oh, how I wish I could adhere to that golden rule! I always have the intent but…ya know, there are just too many times I started a recipe and found I was missing a key ingredient. This causes undue swearing and sometimes, an extra trip to the market.

Integrated into her story are recipes. The recipes are like a timeline of her life – the eye-rolling, teenaged viewpoint of her father as he declares, “You know, we eat better at home than most people do in restaurants,” but realizing the importance of “the steady rhythm of meeting in the kitchen every night, sitting down at the table, and sharing a meal.”

There are so many good recipes it’s difficult to choose one so…I’ll tell you what all I tried so far. If you'd like to see photos and recipes please check me out at Squirrel Head Manor.

I have made the Ed Fretwell Soup as this was an important recipe to honor her friend Ed, and to push on people at the Grief counseling. It was cathartic for Molly to be involved in the preparation of dish she associated with grief and her father…and healing.

Prepared the Spring Salad with Endive, Avocado and Goat Cheese after reading that uber romantic way Brandon proposed – with those confiscated special diamonds!

I made Cornbread with the creamy middle because this chapter described her revelation that girls do sometimes marry their fathers..hahaha…

The Dutch Baby Pancake, well…I really like pancakes and this was the soufflé of pancakes !

It’s in the works to make the wedding cake or, as she calls it, The cake of Winning Hearts and Minds as well as the French-Style Yogurt cake with lemon.

My plan, which went spectacularly off course, was to start with the Yogurt Cake because this was the recipe which brought Molly and Brandon together. If it were not for that cake, he wouldn’t have written to Molly. And of course you just have to end the post (which I am having an epic fail here) with the wedding cake. It’s the start of Molly and Brandon’s life together. Plus it’s a wicked looking recipe which promises (I just know it!) a decadently rich chocolatey slice of a fine cake.

So, one of my favorites, so far…if I have to pick one is this Spring Salad with Avocado…..wow! Fresh ingredients such as avocado, radishes, endive and creamy goat cheese, how could you go wrong.

One of my favorite quotes is from the introduction:

“When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers, and mothers and kitchen tables and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been and who we want to be. When my father sat down to the dinner table, he saw more than what was on his plate. He saw his childhood as the son of two Polish immigrants; his youth in a working class neighborhood in the 1930s………..”

And this paragraph goes on to describe his life. When Molly walked into her kitchen, she brought all this with her.

If you haven’t read this book, this memoir, it is one I recommend. I enjoyed it enough to stop checking it out of the library and purchase a copy. For the memories, for the food, for a good story.

Profile Image for Laura.
51 reviews27 followers
May 25, 2009
This is a wonderful book. I expected food writing (Molly Wizenberg is the author of Orangette, the number one food blog in the world, according to the London Times) and it is food writing, but it is way more than that. I guess the title 'A Homemade Life' should have been a clue.
I like to cook and have been doing it for a long time. I own more cookbooks than the law allows, so you'd think I'd like to read foodwriters' memoirs. I'd think so! But I find MFK Fisher so bleak and her writing so flat and cryptic as to be nearly unreadable. Ruth Reichl leaves me tepid---maybe it's the grudge I have against her for ruining the formerly wonderful Gourmet Magazine. Julia Child's My Life in France was fine. On Rue Tatin by Alice Loomis was okay. Nigel Slater's Toast was exceptional and well worth reading. Amanda Hesser's Looking for Mister Latte was a frothy little amuse-bouche that left next to no imprint on the reader's palate or memory. I do confess to loving her mother's recipe for oven-fried chicken---that alone is worth the price of the book and the time spent reading it.
Molly Wizenberg is the real person's Amanda Hesser. Her voice is fresh and genuine. She writes of her life and loves with great power. Her account of her father's final illness and death, for example, is among the most moving things I've read in years.
And, oh, the recipes. They look GREAT---not prissy, not banal, just right. Just right, like this book, very much just right.

Profile Image for Raela.
280 reviews4 followers
January 11, 2018
Finally finished this beauty of a book. I loved it, and felt a little choked up at the end! Lovely to read her story and see how each of her recipes is meaningful to each stage of her life. And now I’m hungry!
There’s something for everyone in this sweet and lovely memoir about the ways food and cooking are interwoven into the big and little moments of author Wizenberg’s life. Every chapter is a short essay on how the included recipe was impactful at a certain time in her life, and all of the essays wonderfully tie together to tell the story of how she grieved the loss of her father through cooking, travel, family, and love. Author of the acclaimed food blog, Orangette, Wizenberg has a winsome and relatable voice that makes the pages fly by. Her entirely convincing commentary on her favorite dishes will have even non-cooks itching to run to the kitchen, while her clear love for Paris will have you checking flights to experience her favorite food-related Parisian spots for yourself. Poignant and heartwarming, the overarching story of this memoir makes for a touching read that will leave readers excited to pick up her follow-up, Delancey.
Profile Image for Katherine P.
406 reviews41 followers
February 14, 2013
Food writing frequently is overdone with pretentiousness and superiority and while this book had been highly recommended I was a little nervous. Instead what I found was an extremely likable and genuine woman who loved food, Paris, her father and family and her husband. Wizenberg also has the gift of explaining things so you see them through her eyes without overdoing it. When I got the book I initially flipped through the recipes and honestly didn't see much that interested me. After reading the story attached and the description of the food I not only wanted to try most of them and but was anxiously hoping that the recipe would be the at the end. I'm now a subscriber to her blog and looking forward to her next book.
Profile Image for Jenna.
145 reviews11 followers
March 21, 2022
File this under, I ordered a copy to own before I finished reading my copy from the library.
I love Molly's outlook on life and I love her writing style. I will try my hand at the recipes in this book, starting with the chocolate cake!
Profile Image for Dolores.
39 reviews
February 14, 2023
I loved Molly's blog, and I absolutely adore her memoir. I bought a second copy for my Kindle, so that I can share my paperback with other food and book lovers, and still have access to her recipes and the stories wrapped around them.
Profile Image for E.L..
Author 8 books39 followers
April 4, 2014
I read somewhere recently that no one should write a memoir until they are in their seventies - and possibly not even then. I have also recently been reminded that CS Lewis believed journaling at all to be a deadly form of self-indulgence and hubris.

The thing is, though, I like memoirs. Even when they are written about a life that only happened a few years earlier, or that is still ongoing. I also like cookbooks with stories woven into and around the recipes. And I like blogs. And I really, really like food memoirs from bloggers.

This one, however, didn't resonate with me as much as I'd hoped. One reason being, I'm sure, that the recipes themselves didn't appeal to me enormously. They all looked delicious, but not my cup of tea. As for the stories woven in and around the recipes, those also fell a little flat for me. I didn't hate any of it, but neither did I fall in love with the writing, or want to immediately rush to the kitchen to try the recipes. I enjoyed reading this book, but I'm not sure it'll ever become one of those books that is stained and ragged from sitting in the kitchen while I use a recipe from it and chuckle or sniffle over the story that goes along with said recipe, preferably with a glass of wine in hand. I'm sure this will be that book for many people, but it just didn't click with me.
Profile Image for Luke.
68 reviews
June 23, 2009
More than a few times, my darling wife has expressed bemused (but perhaps genuine) alarm at my obsession with the food blog Orangette and, more to the point, with the charming red-headed blogger--Molly Wizenberg--herself. It's no big secret that the path to my heart tends to go through my (ever-expanding) tummy, and many of the recipes on Orangette are now among the tastiest in my repertoire: her slow-roasted tomatoes served with aged goat cheese on toasted baguette slices, her decadently fudgy chocolate cake, her boiled kale with fried egg...

Reading A Homemade Life is a lot like reading Ms. Wizenberg's blog, which is a good thing, really. Her writing is chatty, conspiratorial, big-hearted, and a little bit mushy--never just giving a recipe straight, but always setting the scene, always telling a story. Reading her writing, you almost get tricked into thinking that you and Molly are old pals, getting caught up over a cup of good Seattle coffee.

She's not really my friend, my wife likes to remind me, a little snarkily. But hot damn, the girl has got a singular talent for writing an essay that'll make you want to get up RIGHT NOW and cook what she just cooked. And that, in my humble opinion, is nothing to sneeze at.
Profile Image for Caiti S.
274 reviews253 followers
October 19, 2015
As someone who loves food, and stories involving food but not necessarily about food, I adored this book. Food is about living and loving, and Molly's brief stories illustrate this point, with a recipe to follow each one. My favorite parts were the stories that were less about the food specifically, such as Molly's time in France and the death of her father. It is the kind of cookbook/memoir I'd want to write for my own family someday. I checked it out from the library to read, but I will likely buy a copy for myself, as I can't help but want to make recipes that come with lovely backstories such as Molly's.

Note: I have read many a blog-to-book in my day, and I am honestly tired of the trend. Molly *does* have a popular blog, Orangette, that preceded this book, and I could see that the style of the book is a bit "blog-like" with its short stories and might turn some people off. However, I am a very infrequent reader of her blog, and therefore I didn't feel like I was already familiar with her stories. The book felt organic in a way that other blogs-to-books don't seem to be for me.
Profile Image for Bronwyn.
542 reviews3 followers
February 14, 2012
When I first came across Orangette, I was charmed by Molly, by her optimism and casual intimacy and a life focused on friends and simple pleasures. And then, exposing some rather ugly aspect of my personality, I became rather jealous of her. Even knowing that writing a blog such as that allows quite a bit of self-editing, I was jealous of how lovely her life was, how clear her spirit, how well she put words together. I've cycled back to being charmed by her, and this book only reinforced her charm.

And it is a delightful, breezy read with a unique and utterly authentic voice. And then it gut punches you, and if, like me, you had picked up the book one cold damp evening after a terrible day seeking delight and breeziness, well, the gut punch chapters are enough to open up the faucets but good.

She doesn't dwell, however, or mope, and those chapters anchor the book to more substantial ground.

I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, but I will. Though I think I'll wait until I have a tableful of friends to share with.
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