This is my symphony

What I read & what I lived …

Patricia Volk

Family is what we first know of the world. Family is the world, your very own living microcosm of humanity, with its heroes and victims and martyrs and failures, beauties and gamblers, hawks and lovers, cowards and fakes, dreamers and steamrollers, and the people who quietly get the job done. Every behavior in the world is there to watch at teh dinner tables. You study them … Family is how you become who you will be. 

I think I love reading food memoirs almost as much as I love cooking itself and the books are starting to line up on my shelves like the cookbooks on my counter. So Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family fell right into place along with No Reservations, Tender at the Bone, Julie and Julia and others. Writer Patricia Volk lived a life so far from mine it was like a yummy treat reading about the ingredients that went into making her: New York, society family, eccentric relatives–and food, of course.

As the daughter of a successful restaurateur, her extended family was often part of the business in some way, and her father’s many restaurants served as a backdrop to introduce aunts, uncles, cousins, as well as her beloved sister. Volk didn’t shy from revealing her family’s dirty laundry dishes–the shunned aunt, a grandfather’s temper, her mother’s cutting comments about her weight–but I found I loved them all the more … just as she did. The Volks and Morgans had plenty of shortcomings, but family (and a deep, resilient love) trumped all.

Next up: a rave recommendation from my bookstore friend–Age of Miracles. She thinks it might be a great read-aloud for my English classes this year–“coming of age in a time of crisis … imaginative premise … tons of good reviews” and it’s sitting on my iPad just waiting …

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