Comments: When Matt McAllester's mother passes away suddenly, it sends him on a multi-year effort to rediscover the woman who loved and nurtured him and his family until mental illness started to take her away when he was about ten. He spent most of his teens and twenties trying to block out unpleasant experiences and memories, and her death makes him want or need to search the past.
He tackles his subject like the reporter he is, interviewing everyone who had been close to his mother, seeking old medical records, going through her papers. He finally decides, with his mother's cookbooks and notes in hand, that the best way to find her may be through learning to cook as she did for the family.
Along the way he quits his work as a war correspondent (an ultimate form of escape from being tied down and painful memories), settles in London, gets married, has all kinds of travails trying to conceive a child with his new bride, and has all of the struggles of daily life.
In the end, it may be that time heals all wounds, but he essentially finds that he doesn't need to live in the past, through memories, or even through cooking. He can embrace the possibilities of the present – although it doesn't hurt that he is now a much better and more creative cook.
There are only a few recipes in the book, but that's not the point. The cooking is only one tool that helps him get past more than 25 years of grief. Really well written, the book has more than a little bitter mixed in with the sweet. You can expect to shed a tear or two.