Matt McAllester lost his mother, Ann, long before she died, as mental illness snatched the once-elegant woman away and destroyed his childhood. In this beautifully written memoir, the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist chronicles the journey he took to forgiveness, which brought him straight to the place that evoked his happiest memories of his mother: the kitchen. Recounting the pleasures of his early days, culinary and otherwise, McAllester weaves an unforgettable tale of family, food, and love.
BITTERSWEET: LESSONS FROM MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN
At first, Matt McAllester’s childhood was idyllic, a time when his mother placed heavenly, delicious food at the center of a family life brimming with fun and laughter. Then came the terrible years, years when he had to watch helplessly as his warm, quick-witted mother succumbed to an illness that was never properly diagnosed or understood. Desperate to escape, he eventually found work as a foreign correspondent, hiding in the terrors and tragedies of other people as he traveled to the most dangerous places in the world, from Beirut to Baghdad. But nothing he saw on the battlefield prepared him for his mother’s death—and his own overwhelming grief.
In the weeks and months that followed, Matt found himself poring over old family photos and letters, trying to reach out for the beautiful, caring woman who had now vanished for the second time. But as he looked anew at her long-cherished collection of cookbooks, it occurred to him that the best way to find her was through something they both loved: the food she had once lovingly prepared for him, food that introduced him to a thousand sources of joy—from spare ribs to the homemade strawberry ice cream that seemed in memory the very essence of happy times.
With a reporter’s precision and a storyteller’s grace, McAllester guides us through a long season of grief—cooking, eating, and remembering—at the same time describing his and his wife’s efforts to conceive and nourish a child of their own.
Complete with recipes to delight body and soul, Bittersweet is a memoir of extraordinary power, at once a moving tribute to his mother and a dazzling feast for the senses.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Bittersweet|
|Release Date: 04-14-2009|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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My mother sat in her armchair by the window and asked me if I thought I was a good cook.
"Yeah," I said. "Not bad."
"Do you always leave the book open?"
"Yes," I said.
"Then you can't cook." She laughed, but she wasn't joking. "If you need to keep the book open, you're not really cooking."
We had had this conversation before. It had a companion piece that went like this:
"Have you read Elizabeth David yet?"
"If you want to know how to cook, read Elizabeth David. She'll tell you everything. Read French Provincial Cooking. They're marvelous books. We all learned to cook from Elizabeth David."
This conversation I had with my mother was our shared doorway into talking about food. There was so little we could share, so few topics I could introduce without risking her anger and delusions—my father, certain former friends, certain relatives, places we had lived, most of the past, politics, foreign affairs—or without wading into the oceans of forgetfulness and obliviousness that had built up around things she once cared about and I still did—books, movies, the news. But if I told her what I was cooking for friends over the weekend, we would fall into a safe place together, one where past, present, and future were full of afternoons in the kitchen with the radio on and with chocolate smeared mixing bowls in the sink, desserts cooling in the refrigerator, sauces simmering on the stove, a slowly crisping, caramelizing roast in the oven, and the house full of mingling, delicious smells.
It was the lovely afternoon of May ...