Many of you know Luisa Weiss from her blog The Wednesday Chef, the long-running and utterly lovely site that Weiss started in 2005 to compare, more or less, the weekly editions of two of this country's best newspaper food sections, those of the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.
I first met Weiss at the Wednesday Santa Monica farmers market when I wrote for the former — she had an already loaded market basket in hand, even though she was about to fly back to New York City — and found her about as charming in real life as she was on her blog. For years Weiss lived in New York, where she worked in publishing and edited cookbooks and ran her blog. Then in 2009, she quit her job and moved to Berlin (her birthplace) and started writing a book.
That book, My Berlin Kitchen, came out last week from Viking Adult. And Weiss will be in town this Friday, at Vroman's, to read from it. The book, subtitled “A Love Story (With Recipes),” is pretty much just that.
More specifically, we learn how Weiss quit her job and her then-fiance and decamped to Berlin, to find a new life, a different husband, a different set of books and ultimately to write her own. Fittingly for a woman who blogged about cooking for years, this was often accomplished through the medium of food. Memoir. Recipes. Sour Cherry Quarkauflauf.
Unsurprisingly, Weiss has a smart and engaging writing style. (Want to be a memoirist? Write a super popular blog for a few years first — while editing other peoples' often-questionable writing as your day job.) Weiss is a skilled cook and the Berlin backdrop is fascinating, far more so than the standard “look-at-me-I'm-making-pasta-in-Italy!” stuff of many food memoirs:
German Christmas baking is the stuff of legends, and with good reason. There are no simple drop cookies to be found in this cold, dark place (well, there might be a few, but those are for weaklings), and there is nothing about traditional German Christmas baking that is easy. These doughs were muscle-busting affairs, leaden with molten honey, chopped nuts, and heady spices. I watched Dietrich retrofit an industrial-strength drill machine with a dough hook to mix his mother's recipe for East Prussian gingerbread dough…
The book ends as you know it will — and as all good comedies, both romantic and Shakespearean, should — with a wedding. This is hardly a spoiler. We thus have a kind of old-fashioned tale, of love and family, of gastronomy and epiphanies. There's also something quite endearing about pausing, mid-narrative, for a pickled herring salad recipe.
Weiss will be reading from My Berlin Kitchen at Vroman's in Pasadena on Friday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.
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