Bittersweet: Lessons from my Mother's Kitchen by Matt MacAllester

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Bittersweet: Lessons from my Mother's Kitchen by Matt MacAllester

Category: Biography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A poignant book of raw emotion as MacAllester investigates his mother's life through her beloved cookery books. Recommended
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: April 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing plc
ISBN: 978-1408800942

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Matt MacAllester is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, used to covering the horrors of war, but nothing prepared him for his investigation into the life and death of his mother Anne. In May 2005 Ann MacAllester died suddenly of a heart attack and her son was overwhelmed by grief. This might not sound unusual, but his mother had been largely absent from him for about a quarter of a century, trapped in her own private world of madness. His earliest memories were of an idyllic childhood, where wonderful food was always at the centre of family life and with the help of Elizabeth David, his mother’s favourite cookery writer he sought to find his mother through the food she cooked.

Don’t be misled by the subtitle to this book, for it will not teach you to cook. You might be moved to prepare certain dishes, but that will be a separate journey. You will find recipes, but think of these as an extension of the text rather than the point of it. MacAllester learned to cook because of his mother’s death, but much of what he learned was about his mother herself. He learned to set aside her mental illness and the alcoholism and see the woman she once was.

It’s a mistake, too, to think of this as a memoir: it’s a journey to understanding and to forgiveness. I’m still uncertain whether it was writing the book which brought about the understanding – or the book is a record of that achievement. I suspect that the answer is that writing the book brought about the understanding as I occasionally had the sense of a work in progress. It’s poignant, heart-breaking in places, with a sense of raw emotion being transferred to the page.

I had to smile when MacAllester recounted his mother’s advice that e should cook from the recipe the first time that he made the dish, but after that he should cook without the recipe thus making the dish his own. It was quite a while after his mother’s death that he discovered that she ‘’always’’ used the recipe when she was cooking.

I’d like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For more culinary childhood memoirs you ‘’must’’ read Toast: the Story of a Boy's Hunger by Nigel Slater, but for something a little more unusual we can recommend Cupboard Love by Laura Lockington.

Buy Bittersweet: Lessons from my Mother's Kitchen by Matt MacAllester at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Bittersweet: Lessons from my Mother's Kitchen by Matt MacAllester at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Bittersweet: Lessons from my Mother's Kitchen by Matt MacAllester at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Bittersweet: Lessons from my Mother's Kitchen by Matt MacAllester at Amazon.com.


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