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Nonfiction Memoir has the right recipe for travel, love, food

  • Published Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, at 11:37 p.m.

“My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story With Recipes” by Luisa Weiss (Viking, 302 pages, $26.95)

Here is a book to whet many appetites. “My Berlin Kitchen” will make you hungry for home-cooked food and eager to pack your bags for Berlin, New York, Paris or the Italian countryside. And in the process, it just might invigorate your optimism in affairs of the heart.

Luisa Weiss has penned a winsome book about three aspects of life that help create a well-rounded, satisfying personal existence. Her conversational tone causes readers to feel they are listening to a longtime girlfriend, one who isn’t afraid to admit mistakes, defeats, irrational fears or undeniable culinary casualties.

Consequently, we are delighted to cheer her on in the midst of tales that include false starts and missteps. We yearn for her to find her true home, her true love, and the correct way to make a disaster-prone meringue-topped cake.

Weiss was born in West Berlin in 1977 to a Jewish-American father and an Italian mother. When she was 3 years old, her parents’ divorce set in motion a global hopscotch. She lived with her father in Boston until, at the age of 10, she returned to Berlin to live with her mother. She went to high school in Berlin, college in Boston, graduate school in Paris, and then started a career in New York City.

“When you grow up all mish mashed like I did, with an American passport and Italian citizenship and a birth certificate issued in West Berlin, it might take you a little longer than usual to figure out your place in the world. You’re this strange little hybrid of a person, easily adaptable, fluent in many languages, an outsider everywhere.”

Weiss developed an obsessive penchant for clipping recipes out of the newspaper’s Wednesday food section. When a friend told her about Julie Powell’s quest to cook her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” Weiss started following Powell’s blog. She began putting all her clipped recipes to use and shared her own culinary adventures online.

As interest grew for her blog, “The Wednesday Chef,” she was surprised and gratified to realize readers enjoyed details of her everyday life as well as her cooking.

Her descriptions of a specific dish at a particular time and the effects of it on her life are vibrant and meaningful.

As Weiss transitions through various major cities, she questions her timing, placement and solitude. “As I grew up, moving around from Berlin to Boston to Paris to New York, I discovered that cooking was the most reliable way to feel less alone.” A family recipe for ragu “anchored me, reminded me who I was and where I came from.”

Weiss engagingly combines the topics of cooking, travel and love. Any of these ingredients alone would not have yielded a satisfying result, but the blend creates a pleasing melange of flavors.

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