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Home Made: A Story of Grief, Groceries, Showing Up--and What We Make When We Make Dinner

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A woman honors her father's legacy by teaching a cooking class in a home for youth in state care--a powerful memoir about the small acts of showing up that transform our lives and how making food can make community.

Liz Hauck and her dad had a plan to start a weekly cooking program in a residential home for teenage boys in state care, which was run by the human services agency he co-directed. When her father died unexpectedly after a brief illness, Liz decided to attempt the cooking project without him. She didn't know what to expect volunteering with court-involved youth, but as a high school teacher she knew that teenagers are drawn to food-related activities, and as a daughter, she believed that if she and the kids made even a single dinner together she could check one box off of her father's long, unfinished to-do list. This is the story of what happened around the table, and how one dinner became one hundred dinners.

An intimate account of humorous and heartbreaking conversations, and a vivid account of the clumsy choreography of cooking with other people, Home Made is a sharply observed and honestly told story about how a kitchen can be both safe and dangerous; how even the short journey from kitchen to table can be perilous. Each chapter explores the interconnectedness of flavor, memory, culture, and life and offers a glimpse into the ways we behave when we are hungry and the food we crave when we seek comfort. Home Made is a tender and vivid portrait of poverty and abundance, vulnerability and strength, estrangement and connection. It is a memoir about the radical grace we discover when we consider ourselves bound together in community and a piercing investigation of the essential question: Who are we to each other?

400 pages, Hardcover

First published June 8, 2021

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Liz Hauck

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 243 reviews
Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,080 reviews712 followers
May 5, 2023
This is a memoir of the author's experience volunteering to prepare one meal per week together with some teenage boys who lived in a group home, and then eating the meal together with them. She was motivated to do this project after the unexpected death of her father who had worked for the residential home for adolescent boys.

The author had previously suggested her "cooking plan" in response to her father's statement that he missed the rapport he'd had with the kids in his early days as a direct-care provider.
When my dad said he wanted to find a structured way to facilitate more casual interactions with his kids at the House. I had an idea. "What about a cooking class?" I suggested. It could be like your own cooking show!" My dad loved cooking shows. … "I would even help," I promised.
He … said he was interested. "That would be neat."
Her father's death derailed this plan before it could begin, and now the author felt that her carrying out the plan on her own was a way to honor and memorialize her father's life, and perhaps also it could sooth her deeply felt grief caused by her father's absence.

What followed was nearly three years of weekly meal preparations with the young men living in the group home. When the food was ready they would sit around a table and eat the meal together, having a conversation much like a family, and then planning the menu for the next week. The author showed impressive patience and understanding in dealing with these guys. They weren't always cooperative and as helpful as one would hope, but over time the food won them over and relationships became smoother.

Early in the book it appeared to be the story of a succession of different menus, but it wasn't long before we begin to learn more about the young men. They all have a back story of family neglect or rejection, and they face being on their own—ready or not—when they age out of the foster system at age eighteen. By end of the book I felt as if I knew these guys, and I couldn't help being concerned for their future.

Coincidentally the author's three years with this meal schedule ended up also being the final years of the nonprofit's housing program. There was a change in the State's care philosophy that called for ending this type of group home. The non-profit had provided homes for hundreds of wards of the State over forty years, and it was feared that the memory of its existence would be forgotten once it closed. So this book ends up being a record of its existence and a testament to the fact that "something happened here."

This book provides a hard look at endings, grief, and examples of life's-not-fair. There is no simple feel-good happy ending.
Books are supposed to have calibrated worlds and endings that make sense, where heroes you root for don’t die, and boys whom you meet in the beginning — the ones who make jokes while cutting chicken and help to feed other people and keep showing up to do it again — get to be heroes by the end of the story. This book doesn’t make that kind of sense.
All this book provides is an account of being present for a period time in the lives of some disadvantaged young people. It is a story filled with uncertain futures, but the book also conveys the emotion of meeting life at its tender spots and rough edges. I found this to be a story worth reading and knowing about.
Profile Image for Kelli.
103 reviews75 followers
February 16, 2021
After Liz loses her father, she decides to honor him in the most authentic way she can think of. He spent his whole career serving kids in foster care at a boys group home. Liz decides to make a cooking club for the boys that will allow them to bond, trust, learn to cook and belong to something.

She takes you through a nearly three year journey of cooking, stories, sadness as well as laughter.

This is a true story with real characters.

The last few chapters really got to me and make me emotional. Everyone needs the basics of food, housing and belonging.

Beautiful cover and touching acknowledgements.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,277 reviews560 followers
January 22, 2022
This is absolutely the most boring book in the wider non-fiction category that I have read in a couple of years. Maybe up to 5 years. And that is saying something since I read technical stuff on occasion and at least 50 to 100 non-fiction category books most years.

The idea is a good one- the dinners occurring decent and a consistently true onus/posit too. Connections over making food are considerable and deeper than a mere directional slant.

But, the self-awareness quotient? And the emotional bases she crosses without even hitting the ball?

Not a book I would recommend. It has about as much real information as a magazine article. Certainly not half enough for this length of pages.

Would really be interested to know a 4 or 6 or 10 year aftermath of what the boys/ men in transitional home remember. And if they cook. And what job in any full time or permanent nature she holds presently.

Hope they do shop and cook. Sped read about 3/4ths of this. It's far more about grief and elitist brand empathy think than it is about food. For me, it sets up the very dynamic that needs to be put away for escape from the perpetual victim closet. Not just for Liz either.

This needed a good editor. Any editor. It would have been better if halved.
Profile Image for Meghan.
74 reviews
July 24, 2021
My parents started working at D.A.R.E. with Gerry Wright shortly before I was born, in 1965. They were the house parents at Hillside House in Roxbury for six years before moving the program to a farmhouse in Maine. My sister and I grew up first with teenaged boys in Boston and then with tween boys and girls in Maine. The program was life-altering for us and for them. I just saw one of my foster sisters yesterday and told her about this book. She told me she gives thanks every day that she was pulled from the orphanage and given the opportunity to grow up in the home setting my parents created for kids in state care who would not have been adopted. Gerry is a saint and Liz has brought memories rushing back for me and my family.
Profile Image for Robin.
47 reviews4 followers
June 1, 2021
Guys, this book was amazing. I received an advance copy from the publisher and am writing this honest review at their request - but I would've given 5 stars anyway. Liz Hauck wrote a story that is coming at the perfect time. Through a memoir that details several years running a small volunteer cooking program at a Boston residential program for young men she explores grief, community, racism with a thread of perseverance throughout.

I grew up in the neighborhood this book is set in, and Liz captured it perfectly - I know that readers from other places will have a true sense of this little intersection of Jamaica Plain. I also know - or knew - several of the individuals who are depicted in the book, and even the ones I never met (those boys!) have stayed with me since I finished reading. This isn't exactly a fun or easy book to read (I definitely cried), but it's a GOOD one that I couldn't put down until the end.

In this year that's been marked by loss and reminders of what community NEEDS to be, I'm so thankful that this book was created. If you read it like I did, you'll find it's an irresistible call to action.
Profile Image for Pascale.
196 reviews48 followers
June 13, 2021
Disclaimer: I received an advance reader's copy from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

While the premise of the Liz Hauck's project and time running it sounded interesting I found most of this a slog. Perhaps some further editing would have been beneficial as I founded the repetition of chicken stirfry and quesadillas extremely repetitive.

I was recommended this title by the publisher because I had reviewed Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir but these are two very different books. The cooking and food in this memoir are utilitarian while other food writing memoirs focus more on flavours, textures and tastes.

Also some of the interactions, if reported accurately, between Hauck and the resident's belie her ignorance of the lived experience of these young men of colour, some of these smacked of outright racism. I would have expected a greater sensitivity in someone who was volunteering to work with youths in care who are mostly POCs.

Perhaps I'm jaded but, this feels like such a small project in means of scale and local or global impact and so I wonder at the appeal of this book. Sure it would be great if we all volunteered our time to 5-6 young adults every week, but what does that change in the grand scheme of things? Why was Hauck not outraged by the system (as I was reading this) and inspired to make a change?

Rather than having all the relevant details about the systems in place all plunked down in the very last chapter, I think that the purpose of the book would have been better served had it been presented throughout. Its easy to gloss over the last few pages that contain academic writing compared to the life writing that defined the rest of the book.
Profile Image for Susanne.
369 reviews17 followers
October 30, 2021
I found this a MARVEL of a book! Written by the daughter of Charlie Hauck, a Boston area man whose alternative service assignment as a 1970's conscientious objector became his life work, tending to underprivileged youth in state care until his death from cancer in 2004. His daughter Liz writes here about her efforts to honor his name and come to grips with her grief over his death by volunteering to cook with teenage boys in the same program once a week for three years between 2006-2009. There are no easy answers here, no miracles for her or for the boys who have no understanding of "family" (because those who end up in state care are, by definition, the products of badly broken families). But she shines a light on the many ways in which community and kindness and service can lead to healing. The key, she says, is to "show up on time when you said you would, do what you said you would do, and leave." This book will give you an unromanticized glimpse into social struggles most of us will never know, and an appreciation for the people who do what they can to help those who need it most.
Profile Image for Nora Wolfenbarger.
Author 3 books106 followers
August 25, 2021
This book is written from the heart and is filled with truth from life experiences dealing with young men society wants to ignore. The story tugs at your heartstrings and at times ignites anger on behalf of those kicked to the side and left to a life of hardship. I appreciate what the author was trying to convey, but the repetition is overwhelming and made it difficult to continue to the end.
Profile Image for Anne Slater.
609 reviews14 followers
July 17, 2021
A young woman makes a commitment to do something to honor her late father. From what I read (red) of him in this book, a really admirable person.
She created a program that made/makes all kinds of sense: a weekly get together where the teen aged male residents (5 or 6) of a respite home will learn how to cook simple meals and then eat together (the author included). A kind of socializing exercise as well as learning experience.

We are introduced to all the boys and all their various problems, and see how Hauck does and doesn;t get it... All poignant, some just plain sad.

Excellent, frustrating, sad, generous......and, yes, entertaining.
Profile Image for Afsoon.
135 reviews2 followers
December 25, 2022
listened on audio

a touching story of a woman healing from the loss of her father through cooking for teen boys at a community home in boston MA. this was incredibly touching, especially as the audio is narrated by the author. hearing the emotion in her voice was gut wrenching. the lack of a social welfare network in the united states impacts many people, and the boys in this story are individuals at the crux of this societal dilemma
Profile Image for Anne.
592 reviews2 followers
January 8, 2022
This book will stay with me a very long time. The author's Ignatian spirituality shines through on every page. Many of my hospice and other social work and nurse friends would enjoy this story, though it is a hard read at times. As the adopted Mom of a former foster child, I have spent a lot of time in places like the Home. I found in my experience, the group homes were so much better than most of the foster homes where we visited my son's brothers. I could relate to the poorly stocked kitchens and the industrial furniture and sadly the small bags they had to take their possessions when they left. I could see Mark and his brothers in the stories of the young men in care. At one point the author talked about the boys understanding of family, and that if you never lived in 'a family' it was hard to figure it out. Agreed... This is an insightful story, an easy read, but not. I thank the author for her three years of being there for those boys, her Dad would be very proud.
Profile Image for Maria.
551 reviews3 followers
March 1, 2023
This book and the stories within brought me to tears. It also brought home the need to again realize the privileged life I have and the secure, safe and loved childhood I experienced. I know this book will stick with me for some time to come. A strong reminder to me to care for my neighbor, show up for my community, and never underestimate the value in sharing a meal at the table with someone.
Profile Image for Sharon.
427 reviews12 followers
May 30, 2021
The author was raised in a home where volunteering was valued so this wasn’t her first gig. She and her father had talked about a program where she would cook one night a week for the young men who lived in the group home her father had helped found and where he still worked. After his early death, she wasn’t sure she could go through with it, but with the blessing of his partner and co-founder Gerry, she inaugurated her program.

In her words, “this book is my story about dinners and conversations with six boys, or twenty-seven boys, living in foster care who were assigned to a group home run by the human services agency my father had confounded, there as a volunteer. It’s a story about the interconnectedness of food and memory, and community service and community care. This is also a story of modern America.”

There was a race against the system to get these young men who came in their mid-to-late teens be prepared for living on their own after they turned 18 and were released to whatever came next, another residential assignment or independence. Their assignment to the house was supposed to be transitional but sometimes there was no where for them to go and Frank was “transitionally” there for four years. He didn’t even have a birth certificate so his celebration dinner was whatever year he decided he was. You can’t help becoming attached to these lost and lonely boys and I absolutely fell in love with Leon.

This is a story of the interactions of the boys with the author over the dinners and it’s a story of food. When they were trying to decide what their dinners would look like, Hauck suggested they allow an hour for cooking and an hour for eating. Leon quite honestly asked, why don’t you cook and we eat? Expect to be charmed to pieces and expect to cry.
Profile Image for Amara.
1,493 reviews
August 20, 2021
This was a valuable read, to get a glimpse into the lives of these boys. Big swathes of people in our country start life behind the 8-ball. There is no way to intelligently blame children for where they start life. But this book also shows how difficult it is to make a real difference in the life trajectory of someone starting life addicted (through womb transfer), or starting life with no family and no resources. Neither of these characteristics make a teenager less human. And I appreciated how closely the author brings us to this humanity in each boy, and thus reminds us of our responsibility to help! The little she does (big sacrifices on her part) communicate love and caring through consistency, and her refusal to get pushed away, through her humility to be corrected when she misunderstands. These boys know she cares and I have to believe it must help the trauma inside of them. She makes some sweeping recommendations at the end for services, but I'm not sure which things would work. Contrary to some popular public rhetoric right now, her recognition of the disparities between between black and brown and white peoples do not paint these boys as victims. These boys are resilient tough human beings doing the best they can.
Profile Image for Maria.
127 reviews
October 25, 2021
Liz Hauck is an exquisite writer and her commitment to the weekly dinners is inspiring and palpable. She writes in such a way that you can see, hear, and feel the mood and conversation of each dinner.

She is quick to name the systemic inequities shaping the boys’ lives and is clear that she isn’t trying to be the “great white hope.” At the same time, Hauck glosses over her own personal biases and racialized assumptions. Indeed, while I learned a lot about the boys’ lives, there was little accounting for how she may have been changed or what she gained as a result of befriending these young men. Her insistence that she was “simply doing community service” perpetuates a “haves and have not” mentality that reinforces the toxic and oppressive power dynamic at the heart of the systemic inequities that she laments.
Profile Image for Janilyn Kocher.
3,453 reviews64 followers
April 22, 2021
Home Made is a heartwarming story. Hauck’s father and she had a plan to cook with the young males who lived in a place called The House, where her father was a social worker. Unfortunately, Hauck’s father passed away before the plan was realized. Hauck made it happen a few years later. It was good to read about her intersection with the boys who had tough lives. It was also good to read the boys’ perspectives. I think all,the boys eventually realized that some one cared about them, in a world that usually was quite harsh and unforgiving. Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for the early copy.
Profile Image for Amber Spencer.
734 reviews1 follower
October 16, 2021
Full of hard realities and heavy feelings, this memoir explores one woman’s perspective of how gathering for cooking and eating meals shapes and connects us to those around us. So much goodness from this one story. We can all reach out to those who are displaced around us.

*lots of language and hard topics
Profile Image for Justine.
322 reviews3 followers
September 26, 2021
I must not have been in a sentimental mood throughout reading this as I am unable to appreciate why this book was so highly rated. Instead, I found it quite monotonous and not terribly interesting. Sigh.
Profile Image for Erin Goettsch.
1,211 reviews
September 7, 2021
This is emotional and nuanced and lovely and only lacked in self-awareness, like, twice. (That’s really good for a memoir written only a few years after the events, imo.)
Profile Image for Eileen.
Author 2 books158 followers
August 20, 2021
If I had to sum up in one word what this book is about, the word would be “community.” Liz Hauck decided to honor her father’s memory by instituting a program that they’d talked about creating before he died. She would go to the home for teenage boys that her father had co-directed and cook meals with those boys once a week. She ended up creating a “community” with the boys, although the members sometimes came and went and were replaced by others.

The stories of the boys are moving and the connections Hauck makes are inspiring. She admits she was not out to “save the world,” that being an impossible task. But she did manage to make a difference in some of the boys’ lives, one meal at a time, even if those differences were fleeting.

The last chapter of the book is an extended essay on the condition of state-run residences (Hauck’s state is Massachusetts, city of Boston) and community programs in general. I found it very astute.

I highly recommend this book to all – it should be required reading.
P.S. I have to mention that for one of the meals, the boys requested lasagna, my favorite food of all. I was horrified when Hauck told them she hated lasagna and tried to talk them into making some awful substitute that had a name that was not even Italian. Fortunately, the boys prevailed and they all made lasagna (even if it was with precooked pasta), lol.
Profile Image for Jeff.
40 reviews3 followers
June 5, 2021
This is a book about teenage boys in state care in Boston. More specifically, Liz Hauck documents the several years she spent cooking and eating weekly dinners with an ever-revolving group. It all takes place at a home where her late father worked for decades. His death is the catalyst for her volunteer work, but this is very much a book about these boys.

Hauck set out to capture what happened when she showed up with groceries and notions of making a few boys' lives a little better. But in telling the stories of these dinners, she captures the larger issues that lead kids into this system: the perpetual cycle of racism, poverty, mental health challenges and more. It's impossible to not be frustrated at how these kids get passed along in school, neglected or exploited by their relatives, and then essentially abandoned by the state when they turn 18.

While you can't ignore the heft and seriousness of these problems, the book manages to be relatable, funny, and heartfelt. When she tries to get adventurous or healthy with the meals, she's so often told, "Yeah, but nobody likes that." This results in a lot of quesadillas, pizza and brownies.

Hauck is clear that this isn't a book with a happy ending. That would be disingenuous. But as a record of what life is like for kids who can easily be forgotten, it's an important work.

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.
June 7, 2021
I genuinely loved this book. It was impossible not to become truly invested in the journey of these young men, most of whom had spent their entire lives in state care. It was really fun to read about the different dynamics in the house and Liz really was able to capture it perfectly. I thoroughly looked forward to seeing what was on the menu each week and I always found myself trying to guess who would show up and get their hands dirty in the kitchen. I loved how inclusive Liz was with all the kids and how for that one day a week that house really felt like a home. My favorite dinners were always the birthday dinners because of the fun choices that the boys selected for their special day (caviar anyone?).

I’m not going to lie, there were a few times I found myself getting angry at the situations these young men had to face and it was heartbreaking to learn a lot of their background stories. It’s hard as a parent to learn about just how broken the system truly is and I applaud Liz for what she was able to accomplish in those 3 years she volunteered.

Home Made truly is a beautiful tribute to Liz’s father who spent his life in service of others. She really proved just how important it is to follow through with promises and the power of just simply showing up.

Profile Image for Jasara.
12 reviews
June 8, 2021
From start to finish, this book made my heart swell… Hauck’s simple, yet perfectly descriptive language sets the stage so well — I felt like I was nervously introducing my concept to the boys — or was standing in that kitchen prepping strawberry shortcake — or was riding in the passenger seat as she rushed to get to the House on time… straddling the line between feeling like a kid (wasn’t I JUST in high school?!) while being viewed as an adult by the boys. I was immediately drawn in, and couldn’t put this one down.

The story of these weekly dinners, a kind of love letter from Hauck to her father, who was taken from her too quickly — share how she honored him, his memory, and his legacy through service — by following through on a program they planned together. She shows her strength of character by showing up… week after week… by being there for those boys… by making dinner with them… by eating together family style. The dinners and the food became something they all could count on. I found myself rooting for her… for the boys… and for dinner!

This is a great read… Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Rhiannon Johnson.
811 reviews240 followers
June 8, 2021
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

As someone who truly thinks food is a love language, I was in awe of how Liz gave the gifts of responsibility and nourishment (physical and emotional) to these boys and young men. It also ripped my heart out to hear the stories of hunger and poverty. This book stands as a testament to the power of food and the warm welcome of a community gathered around a dinner table. Nonfiction readers and those who love to cook will enjoy this book. It would also be a great selection for high school summer reading.

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9,657 reviews86 followers
June 1, 2021
An amazing heartfelt memoir that's about more than the author. Hauck's father was committed to working with young men in residential care and, after his unexpected death, she carries on with the project he envisioned. She cooks with the young men, who have difficult pasts and uncertain futures. But this is about more than the meals they make together, it's about community, compassion, and hope. The stories will linger in your mind. Yes, dinner at the table is important but equally important is the shared experience of cooking with those who will share the meal. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Hauck went into this to honor her father and she's done more than that- she's inspired me and I suspect others as well.
Profile Image for Nancy.
449 reviews2 followers
December 29, 2021
Liz Hauck volunteers to start a cooking class at a home for boys in state care simply because she feels it the right thing to do and to honor her father who worked there for some 30 years. She's young, white, middle class, a teacher, and comes from a tight-knit family. The boys are none of the above. Some would call her a bleeding heart. This is a beautiful memoir of someone who just shows up and lets life happen. As a teacher, I could relate to her desire to help and hope for change. As one of the boys tells her "your problem is you just can't accept us as we are". P.S. I cried at the end.
Profile Image for Emily.
7 reviews3 followers
June 7, 2021
This is a moving book about the power of food and rituals. Hauck weaves together stories of cooking with teens in transitional housing with lessons she learned from her recently deceased father. The book deals with many complex subjects such as privilege, cultural differences, and loss, and wraps them up in the familiar ritual of preparing food. A really wonderful debut, I look forward to more books from the author.
Profile Image for Wellington.
674 reviews20 followers
August 2, 2021
When Liz Hauck's father passed away, she wanted to honor him by executing on the idea of having a cooking class for youths in state care. The story had the makings of a feel-good movie, and book.

It is a heart warming book a a tear-jerker, almost. It's inspired me to try a few different things in the kitchen. I kind of wished that there were more recipes. The weekly cooking classes were about more than food. It was about keeping promises and just showing up.

Profile Image for Kate.
985 reviews6 followers
July 22, 2021
It's a great story about what is real - it's about showing up, it's about food, it's about making a place at the table.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 243 reviews

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