by Kate Christensen
Kate Christensen is my soul sister. Reading Blue Plate Special is like commiserating with a literary soul mate over several glasses of good wine. She loves food, I love food. She loves New England, I love New England. She loves reading and writing, I love reading and writing. She's gluten intolerant, I'm gluten intolerant. She's a writer, I want to be a writer. Christensen has shot to the top of my list of Writers Who, If I Ever Met, I Would Freak Out and Embarrass Myself (other writers include Cheryl Strayed and Colum McCann).
Christensen's writing is as warm and inviting as the smell of fresh-baked bread. I was hooked from the introduction: "To taste fully is to live fully. And to live fully is to be awake and responsive to the complexities and truths--good and terrible, overwhelming and miniscule. To eat passionately is to allow the world in." I've never lived out West. I've never been a nanny in France. And I don't know what a Waldorf School is. But I really connected with this book. Her experiences are vastly different from mine, but at the core, she is open and relatable.
Christensen's memoir is about figuring it out. And as someone who is deeply intrenched in trying to figure it out, I really appreciate Christensen's vignettes of family, growing up, love, loss, and food. I enjoy reading about someone else's struggle, experiencing their process of understanding themselves and where they fit in the world. Christensen is generous with her writing and doesn't shy away from what was difficult or uncomfortable in her life. Sometimes she is the villain of her story, sometimes the hero, sometimes a supporting character.
The pacing of this book is excellent. It's composed of relatively short vignettes of her life. She doesn't get overly sentimental, or wallow in self-pity; she is measured yet honest. She allows readers to share in her triumphs and missteps, and a lot of food stories and recipes a long the way. I haven't read any of Christensen's novels, but now plan to. And if you haven't read Blue Plate Special, you definitely should. When the weather turns cold and dark, what's better than curling up with a great food writing/memoir?