Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Three Many Cooks: One Mom, Two Daughters: Their Shared Stories of Food, Faith & Family

Title:  Three Many Cooks: One Mom, Two Daughters: Their Shared Stories of Food, Faith & Family
Author:  Pam Anderson, Maggy Keet, Sharon Damelio
Publication Information:  Ballantine Books. 2015. 336 pages.
ISBN:  080417895X / 978-0804178952

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Some people plan what they are going to do when they get together; our family plans what we are going to eat."

Favorite Quote:  "Talking about love - or truth or faith or beauty - only gets us so far. We need love we can touch, truth we can eat, faith we can drink, beauty we can share."

The "three many cooks" are Pam, Maggy, and Sharon - a mother and her two daughter. Pam Anderson is the author of seven cookbooks, former editor at Cook's Illustrated, and current food expert for AARP. Maggy Keet works as a fundraiser and pursues her passion for cooking with her family. Sharon Damelio also has a full timer career in non-profits and finds her relaxation in cooking.

Together, the mother and daughters team co-author the blog Three Many Cooks to, as they say on their website, invite people into their "favorite place" - the kitchen. The blog is a compilation of recipes, organized as you might see in a cookbook. Accompanying each recipe is a story from their lives - their history with this recipe or day to day events. The posts are authored individually by each of the three women.

This book picks up on the same theme. The book has fewer recipes and more blog like essays about life and lessons by each woman in turn. As such, they can be read as discrete essays or all together.

My favorites are the first and the last. One deals with the loss of a father; the other with a celebration of life. Both touch deep emotions; the first had me in tears. The topics for the others range from teenage rebellion, tough economic times, marriage, children, weight issues, and, of course, the mother-daughter and sister relationships. Each has a similar feel, and, of course, each one comes back to the role food has played at each juncture in their lives.

The book does not follow a chronological sequence; as such, certain junctures of their lives are visited through multiple essays and, hence, multiple perspectives. This results in a certain amount of repetitiveness in the books. For example, the move to Darien, the lessons learned in growing up having to work for things, and life lessons being passed down the generations in the kitchen are discussed many times. After a while, you wait for the book to take that topic beyond what has already been said and to reach what makes their story unique.

The best and worst part of the book is that the stories are sweet. The book is a nostalgic look back. It makes you want to reach out and gather family around. The stories are warm and comforting. Almost too much so. The nostalgia seems to gloss over what must have been some very tough times. The resolutions and journeys beyond the difficulties almost seem to come too easily. Perhaps, the essay format requiring a resolution before its end that lends to that feel. It is a feel good book, but the view through rose-colored glasses seems to create a veil between the reader and the reality of their lives.

I love and complete agree with the premise of how much life happens in and around food. It is certainly true in my family - food triggers memories, and food shared creates memories. A couple of the essay come close to capturing that feeling. but most just fall a little short in completing conveying those emotions.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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