Apron Anxiety: My Messy Affairs In and Out of the Kitchen by Alyssa Shelasky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Because I received a copy of this from the publisher, I am reviewing it the same week it comes out! While I was given a copy for free, I wasn't asked for anything (nor did I ask for a copy!), so these are my honest thoughts.
Anyone who knows my feelings on memoirs should understand that four stars is no slight praise for Alyssa Shelasky. After all, I almost gave up in chapter 2, which I will refer to as the "name dropping chapter," where she talks about her days (more often: nights) as a writer for various well-known TV networks and fashion/entertainment magazines in New York. It is shallow, it is silly, and I found her incredibly annoying.
Without that contrast, I think you wouldn't get a chance to understand how she grows. Alyssa had a relationship with a fairly known 'celebrity' chef (I'll let you Google it since in the book she refers to him as Chef), one taking her from her comfort zone and dumping her into a solitary existence in DC as he rode the swell of fame to opening several restaurants. It is an isolation that anyone living with a restaurant person would know well.
She has to go through a journey to find herself, to find happiness but also just a hobby, and food becomes her salvation. The fact that she'd never cooked in her life makes the story more charming, and it helps that she has no problem making public mistakes. It started with her blog, Apron Anxiety, and turned into this book. I don't often laugh when I'm reading, but her description of her first meal for Chef had me giggling.
It isn't just that she learns about food. Any tedious journalism major could go through that journey, and the potential for an inauthentic experience is what I was fearing when I started the book. I felt her personal journey to be far less shallow than she appeared toward the beginning, and she learned to get to know people who she had originally dismissed, and to stand up for what she needed from her life.
There are recipes throughout this that make for a feel-good read, as if the reader could recreate moments that were meaningful for the author. And... yeah, I might need to make that tomato soup.
A few bits from the end:
"You learn that there's nothing bad about feeling safe and there's everything good about inner stillness; and above all, just because you're an extraordinary person who deserves extraordinary love, it can't come at the expense of everything else that makes you whole."
"Everyone cooks for matters of the heart. We're all in the kitchen because it fulfills a longing inside, whether it's for grace, survival, a renewed sense of self, or just the thrill of it all - these are the stories that get us there, keep us there, or sometimes take us away. But without the people who have moved us, pushed us, left us, maybe even hurt us, then really, it's only food."