Review: Relish

Relish: My Life In The Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. First Second. 2013. Review copy from publisher.

It’s About: Relish is a memoir/coming of age book about food and cooking, told in a graphic novel format.

The Good: It’s a memoir. And coming of age book. About food. And cooking. In a graphic novel format. What else do you need to know about how great it is?

Knisley starts with childhood memories, and Relish takes her all the way after college, and the focus, of course, is food. And it’s all kinds of food, from creme brulee to oysters to foie gras to boxed macaroni and cheese, frozen dough croissants and fast food burgers and fries.

Recipes and remembrances of food are woven through Knisley’s story: of being a city kid in Manhattan, until her parents divorce and she moves with her mother to the country. Knisley is at first a reluctant country girl, but eventually grows to appreciate her new home — especially the new, fresh food. Significant trips and vacations, choices for school, what art means to her — all of these are part of Relish, which is much about relishing life as it is about relishing food.

Be warned: Relish will make you hungry! There are recipes and food advice (such as why not use the store bought croissants in a tube?), plus just tons of talk about fresh vegetables and eggs from chickens and croissants and cheese….

Relish will also make you laugh. Knisley has a great way with words: “my parents moved to New York City in the late seventies, where they lived the kind of Manhattan life that has since migrated to Brooklyn.” And, of course, a great way with pictures. I loved the panel where a frustrated and angry young Lucy tries to hail a cab to take her back to Manhattan — as her mother doubles over in laughter, because of course there are no cabs to be had.

The illustrations also make the recipes friendlier — at least to someone like me. Never more than a couple of pages long, the recipes from Spice Tea to Pasta Carbonara seem to be something even I could make because, hello, pictures!

I think perhaps one of my favorite sections is the part about Knisley and her mother raising chickens. Because I know a thing or two about chickens and what they are really like and all the eggs and the animals that eat them. That aren’t us.

Because while food is obviously important to Knisley, it’s clear that it’s part of her life, not her Life. Because Relish made me hungry and made me laugh. Because I just want to hang out with Knisley, and ask her what cheese goes best with Fig Balsamic Vinegar. Because I want to pick up copies to give to everyone. Because Relish shows the depth of graphic novels. This is a Favorite Book Read in 2013.

Other reviews: Reading Rants


4 thoughts on “Review: Relish

  1. As someone who loves memoirs, “armchair” cooking books, cookbooks, and graphic novels, I have to read this one. I enjoyed her first graphic novel French Milk. First Second really does put out quality graphic novels.


  2. Eliza, with the wonderful recipes in here, I just added it to my cookbook shelf. And now I need to read FRENCH MILK.


  3. Liz – I think you’ll like French Milk. It reminded me of my first time in Paris, which is always a nice memory to have. Knowing you have Relish on your cookbook shelf makes me want to read it all the more. It will be a while as I’m 8th on the hold list for only 3 copies that are on order. Hurry up, library, and get your copies in and processed.


  4. Liz – just popped back in to say that I finally got a copy of Relish and read it last night. What a lot of fun. The book almost makes me want to move to the country and grow a garden. But then I remembered I hate gardening and came to my senses. So it’s off to the farmers’ market (luckily there is one today) to pick up some great produce. However, I have always wanted to work in a cheese shop and learn more about cheese. Maybe I”ll have to stop by a couple of cheese shops to see if they need some weekend help. Unfortunately, I also live in a very foodie city so the shops are probably all manned by culinary students so I won’t have a chance. Now I need to get my own copy to add to my cookbook shelf.


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