Author: Liz Hauck
Publisher: The Dial Press
Publication Date: June 8, 2021
Book Description: Liz Hauck and her dad had a plan to start a weekly cooking program in a residential home for teenage boys in state care, which was run by the human services agency he co-directed. When her father died before they had a chance to get the project started, Liz decided she would try it without him. She didn’t know what to expect from volunteering with court-involved youth, but as a high school teacher she knew that teenagers are drawn to food-related activities, and as a daughter, she believed that if she and the kids made even a single dinner together she could check one box off of her father’s long, unfinished to-do list. This is the story of what happened around the table, and how one dinner became one hundred dinners.
“The kids picked the menus, I bought the groceries,” Liz writes, “and we cooked and ate dinner together for two hours a week for nearly three years. Sometimes improvisation in kitchens is disastrous. But sometimes, a combination of elements produces something spectacularly unexpected. I think that’s why, when we don’t know what else to do, we feed our neighbors.”
Capturing the clumsy choreography of cooking with other people, this is a sharply observed story about the ways we behave when we are hungry and the conversations that happen at the intersections of flavor and memory, vulnerability and strength, grief and connection.
Rating: 5 Stars
Review: I love food memoirs so much, so I was so happy to get this book in my hands. This is not your typical food memoir, in fact there was not a lot of cooking from scratch at all in this book. Instead we got a beautiful story of a young woman, who is mourning her father’s death, who gives herself to the organization her father spent his life’s work in, and bonds with troubled teenagers.
When this memoir begins, Liz’s Dad is a director for residential homes for teenage boys that are in state care. He is looking to do something different with the boys and Liz and him decide to do a weekly dinner, where they would cook with the boys and then eat with them. Unfortunately shortly after he becomes ill and passes away.
Hauck decides to pay homage to her dad and go on with their plan. When she first enters she is met by one boy who appears to be the leader of this group. He lays out who everyone is and tries to rally all the residents. At first, it is hard to get buy in from the boys, but as the story progresses they start to come of their shell.
The relationships she builds with these boys becomes essential to everyone during these years. They will come and go and age out, but one thing that stood out, was Liz was unwavering for the care and attention she took when she was with them. The food is not the star, as most of the food was pre-made just waiting to be put together, but the conversations she has with each boy living there.
It was just a lovely memoir that I was sad that it ended. Such a simple plan that made such an impact on so many people, especially Liz Hauck.
Thank you NetGalley and Dial Press for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.