The thing about Molly Wizenberg’s blog Orangette and food memoir, A Homemade Life, is that her words are so charming and engaging they have the power to remind us that the simplest moments are worth cherishing (and in her case, documenting). For her, the way the light comes in through an open window; the texture of a great pudding; the crunch of a homemade granola; the smile on a loved one’s face–all of it requires description and care. Through her stories and treasured recipes, Molly shows us again and again that the things that make life special are great meals and the people you share them with.
Life changers in the shape of humans
There are people that change the course of your life within minutes of meeting them. These influential people–life long contributors and brief characters that flutter in and out of your life–have had the power to shake everything up and leave you changed forever.
There is a special kind of individual–the hero–that has the ability to change lives forever through the sheer power of their influence, words or deeds. These Great People–presidents, thinkers, poets, musicians, artists–inspire and inform without any knowledge of their influence on others.
My life changing heroes are artists. Countless writers, storytellers, filmmakers, painters, illustrators, musicians that have entered my life, scrambled my brain and left me forever changed by their art. One such stranger—a hero that has spread whole crops of inspiration—is Molly Wizenberg.
Long and winding road (and story)
Like many Internet searches that lead to an unexpected path of information, I stumbled across Molly’s blog while looking for inspiration for my wedding. Once there, I was captivated by Orangette’s style and voice. I found Molly’s passion for food and delightful stories that were not only entertaining but often inspired me to head to the kitchen with one of her recipes and start cooking. The more I read Orangette, the more I wanted to explore food.
Flash forward a year. I was newly married and in Italy for my honeymoon. While in a beloved chef’s home kitchen in Panicale, I decided I would put my screenplay writing on hold and start my own food blog.
Like the world needs another food blogger
As I cooked bistecca on an open hearth, I imagined what my blog would look like. My posts would be inspired by food and driven by stories. I would tell people what it was like to love food and work in restaurants. I would be honest about my need to learn more and I would chart my culinary adventures on the page. “I’ll be like Orangette,” I said to myself. “Only different.” My blog would be my special place–A Room of One’s Own, if you will—where I could create fearlessly about food. Within my first week of returning home to the states, I started Food Woolf, naming it after Virginia Woolf, a great female writer that championed the need for a feminine perspective in the literary world.
Like an awkward teenager trying out some new dance moves, writing in my blog was strange at first. I both hoped no one would notice my fledgling pages and quietly longed for encouragement. I went to Orangette for inspiration, found wonderful recipes that sent me on my own journeys and over the next several months I began creating a blog that started to resemble the thing I envisioned many months before.
But I became more confident, I started to feel protective of my process. I stopped reading Orangette for fear of adopting a mimicking tone and style to Molly’s. As students and disciples before me, I felt the need to break away from the person that first inspired me, in order create without feeling her influence on my work.
I occasionally stopped by Orangette to keep abreast of important moments in her life. These posts I read—sort of stolen glances across the Internet—told me of exiting new developments in her writing life. There was to be a regular column in Bon Appetit! Hints of book deal! These triumphant moments in any young writer’s life elicited pride and jealousy in me, almost simultaneously.
After less than twenty hours after Molly’s book hit the book stores, I purchased a copy of the three-hundred page book. Once I had the book in my hands, I felt like I had been reunited with a best friend. Lovely, charming, honest and always true to herself, Molly Wizenberg’s food memoir reminded me all over again why I fell in love with her and her blog in the first place.
Without a stitch of bravado, Molly takes readers on a personal journey through her life, one meal at a time. Tales of her childhood are charming and insightful, not at all self-indulgent. Her honesty in describing her relationship with her parents and the unexpected and sudden loss of her father touched me to the core. Using delightful anecdotes and corresponding recipes, Molly shows us what how love and food can transform a life so completely.
Short chapters quickly unfolded in a page turning style that had me polishing off the book in two brief sittings. To overuse a food metaphor, I gobbled the thing up and cried because it was so beautiful. For someone so new to the food writing world, the girl has chops.
Though this isn’t much of a book review, it is a kind of lengthy thank you note to a food writing hero. It’s open letter of thanks to a person I have never met but has inspired me to follow my passion as a writer.
Thank you, Molly and thank you to all the people (known and unknown) who have inspired me to keep on writing.