Relish: Lucy Knisley’s Visual Memoir Tells the Story of Her Life through Food

September 15, 2014

JpegIn December 2009 I found a graphic travel memoir by Lucy Knisley, "French Milk." I loved it as you can see if you read that post. Using a brush pen to sketch the moments of her trip to France with her mother, Knisley created a visually engaging and emotionally interesting mother-daughter memoir. I still recommend it.

Through the "wonder" of Amazon I was recently recommended her 2013 book, "Relish: My Life in the Kitchen." Since I enjoyed the other one so much I ordered it immediately and started reading it as soon as it arrived!

"Relish" is a joy to read. Knisley takes moments in her life that matter to her, frames them within the context of a food experience, and illustrates them—adventures like learning to shuck oysters with her uncle Peter and being a "fly-on-the-wall" at his restaurant, family get-togethers where her grandfather's "patented marinated lamb" is barbequed, or a trip to Mexico where she and her childhood friend Drew both leave their childhood behind in different ways. (I don't want to say more because I don't want to give away the surprises.)

Each graphic memoir section introduces family, friends, and a gastronomic adventure or preference. The sections then each end with an illustrated recipe discussed in that section.

I found myself charmed by her illustrations (done with pen and color this time instead of brush pen) and eager to try the various recipes.

Her storytelling skills have melded her words and images perfectly. There are hundreds of delightful visual surprises like her depiction of the transition of time by showing her parents' traditional Easter party 20 years apart. In both pictures the players are in the same positions, but the hairstyles and other features have changed.

She hits a true and unsentimental note when she blends nostalgia and memory, so the resultant memory is not too sweet. Her recipe illustrations are inventive (including a blow apart version Huevos Rancheros). The book is also laced with her delightful sense of humor (often exhibited in her annotated recipe instructions).

I have to say that her discovery of junk food (and her parents' reaction) completely charmed me.

If you are interested in visual memoirs I encourage you to read this book. If you are interested in food I think her omnivorous, adventuresome attitude to foods of all types will keep you smiling. I think the book will spark memories for you as you start looking back at your own most outstanding food memories.

There are so many ways that the stories of our lives can be told. Food nourishes us every day so it makes perfect sense to mine your food experiences to recall your past. Knisley has done this in a delightful marriage of words and illustrations.

Now I have to make some of those recipes.

You can follow Lucy Knisley at her tumbler account listed above (second link) or learn about new projects at Lucylou.

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