Wednesday, July 1, 2015

This Book Will Stir You

I can only imagine that Jessica Fechtor's journey through the trauma of a broken aneurysm and surgeries on her brain was a long and arduous road to follow. Yet her memoir about the event that re-shaped her entire life, Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home, is a story of courage, resilience, and grace.

As I read about this young woman's experience with a brain bleed, brain surgery to correct the aneurysm, and subsequent issues (some of which lead to yet more brain surgery!), I was amazed and uplifted by the fact that she was able rise above what so many of us might imagine for ourselves if we were in a similar situation. She did not get bitter. She did not assume the role of victim. She never saw herself as handicapped or limited. (Yes, she acknowledged her physical limits post-op and during her recovery, knowing it would take time to rebuild her stamina. This is a normal, healthy part of getting your life back.)

During the long hospitalization and rehab process and the equally long recovery process at home, Fechtor was surrounded by people who loved her and cheered her on. She found her way back to them, and to living her life to its fullest once more, through the foods she was able to enjoy, to create, and ultimately share with them and all of us fortunate enough to read her book.

Some may find it odd that a memoir about a life-changing trauma would center on and include so much talk of food and recipes. I find it most a propos! Because I was bed-ridden with pneumonia on my 18th birthday, my mother nursed me back to health by driving across town (in horrible wintry weather!) to get matzo ball soup from the only restaurant in town that made it. To this day I crave that soup whenever I get a winter cold or flu. Food has that kind of power in our lives!

I hope you will run out and get a copy of this amazing woman's story! I found it so encouraging and uplifting. Also, there are some great recipes included! My daughter and I can't wait to try her buttermilk biscuits and the cherry clafoutis! There are some serious comfort foods included. (Though I confess to a few fits of jealousy as I read about the seriously scrumptious toast in her near-by cafe and the ability to buy Copper River salmon in Seattle. I've had it twice. BEST. SALMON. EVER.) You will not be disappointed in this most stirring memoir!

My thanks to the publishers for the copy of Stir which I received in exchange for this review.

From the Publisher . . .

An exquisite memoir about how food connects us to ourselves, our lives, and each other.

At 28, Jessica Fechtor was happily immersed in graduate school and her young marriage, and thinking about starting a family. Then one day, she went for a run and an aneurysm burst in her brain. She nearly died. She lost her sense of smell, the sight in her left eye, and was forced to the sidelines of the life she loved.

Jessica’s journey to recovery began in the kitchen as soon as she was able to stand at the stovetop and stir. There, she drew strength from the restorative power of cooking and baking. Written with intelligence, humor, and warmth, Stir is a heartfelt examination of what it means to nourish and be nourished.

Woven throughout the narrative are 27 recipes for dishes that comfort and delight. For readers of M.F.K.Fisher, Molly Wizenberg, and Tamar Adler, as well as Oliver Sacks, Jill Bolte Taylor, and Susannah Cahalan, Stir is sure to inspire, and send you straight to the kitchen.

About the Author . . .

JESSICA FECHTOR writes the popular food blog, Sweet Amandine. She is a PhD candidate in Jewish Literature at Harvard University, where she has received numerous awards for her research and teaching. She lives with her husband and daughters in San Francisco, and doesn’t believe in secret recipes.

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