I have followed the blog “The Wednesday Chef” for about a year now. I found it interesting and appealing, hence when the author Luisa Weiss published her book, My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes), I wanted to read it.
I was not sure I wanted to own the book, especially after reading some mixed reviews on Amazon about it. So my best course was to borrow it from the library to make an informed decision. I know it is not a matter of solving a world crisis, but we seriously lack space and we already have a small mountain of cookbooks that keeps expanding, so careful selection is a must.
The book starts with memories of Weiss as a toddler, with an amazing recollection of details for it to be construed as real. I had the impression that the memories are too detached to come from the author’s brain, but seemed more like a reconstructed version of what she heard from those who were adults around her at the time. Hence she starts off as being disconnected from her own memories.
Luckily her tone warms up later in the book, but the impression I had throughout is that Luisa Weiss only skimmed over her feelings or maybe she did dig them deep in person but it was not apparent in what she wrote. It can be hard to lay your heart out on paper, let alone when it is addressed to total strangers. It is not an easy feat.
This did not stop me from relating to her in a lot of places: maybe because I too cook for comfort, I too collect clipping from magazines and the internet, or because I too, am an expat.
All of the above, managed to keep the book a light read, yet not one that compels one to keep reading or wanting to know what happens next. The story is mostly a trip down memory lane, or events that marked the author’s life, but some of these events are so normal that they do not suck you into her world, perhaps because they are described as more important than they seem to be. I do not doubt that events influence people in countless ways, and mean an entirely different thing to each person, but the ones in the book do not keep the reader spellbound and waiting to see how it all unfolds, while they could have meant the world for Weiss. She seemed to be telling someone else’s story rather than her own and describing the feelings rather than living them.
A couple of reviews I read on Amazon criticized the book, for having the “poor me” effect in some places, but I disagree; I did not have that impression, especially since it is hard to speak of struggles without sounding like treading on the self-pity road. After all, writing a memoir is about a personal experience(s) and the way that experience affected the author’s life. My criticism -the same I mentioned before- is that the author did not pull the reader into her world.
At first I was put off by the presence of the recipes at the end of each chapter, but I have slowly gotten used to it and it did not seem as distracting or off putting eventually. I realized that the book is trying to keep a “blog-ish” feel to it, and trying to relate the recipe to the memory or the occurrence in the preceding chapter.
As for the recipes themselves, I can easily say that most are simple to make and would be great for a quick meal. A lot of the recipes seemed appetizing enough for me to want to try them and even buy the book to keep them around. Some others I might adapt to use, like the goose recipe. While I would not cook a goose or go through the trouble (according to Weiss it is a great deal of trouble), the flavor profile seemed like it would be perfect for chicken.
In conclusion the book is an interesting read. Would I have bought it for the story? Probably not. For the recipes? Absolutely.
I ought to mention that there are a couple of typos in the book, but nothing too major to put a reader off.
The book came out in paperback not long ago, in a different design than the hardcover.
Last, I wanted to mention the hardcover design since I think that the photo is excellent and the font on the cover keeps up with the whimsical nature of the picture, creating a beautiful visual effect.