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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Weekend Cooking- The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn
Published by Atria ISBN 9781451674200
Hardcover, $26, 320 pages
Emily Nunn, a former New Yorker magazine editor, was in love and living with her fiance`, "the Engineer" she called him, and his lovely young daughter in Chicago. While on vacation in Barcelona, she got word that her brother Gil had committed suicide.

Emily was devastated and the Engineer was upset that Emily couldn't just snap out of her depression and move on. The Engineer broke up with her and she lost her fiance, his daughter, her home and had no job. She began to drink heavily, and one night she poured out her heartache on Facebook.

The next morning, she discovered many of her Facebook friends had responded to her post, asking Emily to come visit them. Her sister Elaine got Emily into the Betty Ford Clinic to deal with her alcohol problem, and took charge of Emily when she got out of rehab.

But things soured quickly. In Emily's family, her mother and one of sisters didn't speak to anyone else in the family. Elaine would decide not to speak to Emily for long periods of time, and Emily never knew why. Emily grew up "in a family of seven- an exquisitely dysfunctional southern family, in various members stopped speaking for years in various convoluted and confusing configurations."

Emily decided to go on on comfort food tour. She would travel the country, visiting various extended family and friends, and that led to her memoir The Comfort Food Diaries: My Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend a Broken Heart. She stayed with an aunt and uncle in Virginia, trying to learn why her family acted the way that they did. Childhood pals, high school friends, college chums, cousins- they all invited Emily to come visit and cook with them.

The Comfort Food Diaries is part food memoir, part travel guide, part family story, and part self-discovery story, filled with wonderful recipes for the food that nourishes the appetite and the soul. Emily found that she wasn't the only one who had been hurt, and she discovered the resilience to face her life head-on.

The most moving part of the story was when Emily and Elaine went to see their long-estranged father. He was suffering from dementia, lonely and living amid squalor . He had left the family when Emily was a young girl after her mother had taken up with another man and he moved out. It was heartbreaking to hear his story.

There are so many fabulous recipes in this book that I want to try- Toni's Tomato Sauce, Great-grandmother's Mean Lemon Cake,  Bea's Magic Salad Dressing, Aunt Mariah's Pot Roast, Magnificient Sour Cream Corn Muffins- it is a nice mix of traditional family, and more modern restaurant fare.

If you like memoirs about families and food, The Comfort Food Diaries is a good read for you. I recommend it.


  1. This sounds fantastic, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. What a sordid story! I guess comfort food would be a good antidote (and yield good anecdotes as well). I hope you follow up and tell us how your selected recipes taste, when you make them.

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

  3. I love culinary memoirs! This popped up on my Goodreads twice today, so I guess it's a sign to get a copy. Thanks for the great review.

  4. The recipes sound wonderful and the book interesting. Thanks for the review

  5. I think I might have a copy of this. It sounds like a good balance between memoir, family story, and food! (I was traveling last week and have just found time to visit my visitors!)

  6. I have seen this book in a couple of places and wondered about it. Your review has me even more interested. Thanks for sharing.