In summer I feel as though I bounce between wanting to read books with serious themes, books I predict I will take a lot away from and just easy, good-hearted reads. My summer reading recommendation falls under the easy, good-hearted read. There is nothing wrong with easy, whimsical or just something that makes you hungry.
I finished My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes) by chef and blogger Luisa Weiss just after we just got back from a vacation to Munich and Salzburg. While we were in Bavaria, this book definitely made me want to explore northern Germany and Berlin whenever we next are able to get to Europe. (Isn’t it hard to come back from vacation and just want to start planning seven more trips?) I had never heard of Weiss or her blog The Wednesday Chef, and I can’t even remember why I added her book to my to-be-read list. However, I’m glad I did and glad I picked it up from the library. Please note, this book has lots of great recipes in it so you’ll either want to buy the book outright or write down the ones you want to keep. I’ve got her pflaumenkuchen (plum cake) and proper German potato salad on the docket.
This is Weiss’s memoir of being half-American, half-Italian and growing up between Berlin and Boston. At first you think, what a wonderfully charmed childhood it must have been being able to speak at least three languages and see so much of the world at a young age. Of course, as Weiss writes, that is not the case. It was hard and there was lots of heartache. Weiss found solace in the kitchen through cooking and baking. I think we’ve all been there when you feel homesick and want that comforting food to make you feel a tiny bit better.
What Weiss cooks while at school, between parents’ houses or during her year in Paris, seems very simple and not overly pretentious. She seemed to favor a few ingredients and little fuss. Later during dinner parties, there would be more fuss and experimenting, but for the most part it seems like you or I could also accomplish these cooking feats at home, which is the point. Weiss isn’t a trained chef from a fancy culinary school. She learned, like the rest of us, from her parents, extended family and friends, and from thumbing through the food section of newspapers. Then she started to blog about it at the same time that cooking blogs, and probably blogs overall, were taking off. She talks about reading Julie Powell’s blog and being inspired to take up writing to strangers on the internet too. On the cover of the edition I had, Deb Perelman is quoted with high praises for the book. It continues to show there is a well-established online cooking community, and I think it's here to stay.
Most of Weiss’s life does seem very charmed. A job in publishing in New York, working with cook books and getting to travel does not seem half bad at all. I don’t think Weiss comes off as making herself seem ungrateful for the opportunities she received. She made a lot of those opportunities for herself, and she does discuss her mistakes. It adds to the realness and how you could be talking to a friend. This is what makes this book successful. It’s a marriage between recipes and feelings and memories, good or bad, associated with those recipes.