Luisa Weiss is a thirty something American-Italian who was born in Berlin during the 70s and who grew up between the city of her birth and New England.
Weiss made her name as a blogger with ‘The Wednesday Chef’, back in the days when the internet was more about food than cat memes, and she writes with considerable charm.
It’s quite hard not to get caught up in the story of her relationship with a young German whom she meets as a student in Paris but later leaves to move to New York and a career in publishing. We see her narrowly escape the wrong marriage and return to the man she realises is the love of her life. Seriously, you’d have to have a heart made from the broken remnants of granite kitchen tops not to be affected by it. And I have to say I really rather enjoyed reading it. I like the fact that it’s essentially a mix of memories and food writing and that every chapter closes with a recipe somehow linked to the preceeding events.
But, and I do have buts…, it did leave me somehow frustrated.
Firstly Weiss’s story is rather lightweight. Yes it’s charming and romantic but she’s pretty much breezed through life in Berlin, Paris and New York. Yes she’s hit difficult patches with family and work and relationships. But frankly she’s young and lucky and nothing she’s had to contend with amounts to very much. If this was my life I wouldn’t try to string a narrative around it. I love vignettes that lead into food writing but here I felt they could tell one more about the milieu the dishes are from, a bit more about the people she meets and less about the author’s love life. Her observations and memories would have been enough. The mistake was to seek to weave them into a narrative thread because her life story isn’t compelling enough to be the point, better it had been about the food and the places, illuminated by the personal.
And that’s the other thing; somehow she captures the essence of New York and even evokes Paris and Italy pretty well, but this is called ‘My Berlin Kitchen’ and I just don’t feel her Berlin. She seems wierdly detached from it, as though she hadn’t properly rediscovered it when she wrote this, which to be fair may have been the case because, so far as I could tell she’d only moved back 18 months or so before writing this.
But hey I still enjoyed it, the recipes seem pretty good, it’s more that it could have been a better book without the conceit of its being a memoir.
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