Hunger, body and emotion, in the “comfort food diary”
A few years ago, Emily Nunn, suddenly unemployed and homeless, began to laugh at her “crazy journey”. This will culminate in her new memoir, “the comfort food diary: my quest for the perfect food to find a broken heart”.
Nunn’s life seemed perfect. After her fashion career as “New Yorker” (she co-wrote two table comment columns), she jumped on the Chicago BBS. When she becomes the victim of the recession, and when he was fired, she’s fantastic fiancee “tall, handsome, charming, wore a Brooks brothers suit” “engineer”, life is still beautiful, and have a blue eyes of his daughter, children have no nunn.
She knew nothing of the “darkest winter” in her life ahead. Her beloved brother, Oliver, is a sexy struggling closed gay man who commits suicide and her world begins to unravel. Nunn was tortured by destruction and guilt, seeking solace in faithful old hands: alcohol.
The “alcohol gene” is oliver’s curse to the family. “Drinking is like a personal charm, you either have it or you don’t,” she wrote in a humorous note. A miserable memoir may produce a wet bottom, but Nunn’s sharp writing is full of satirical quotes, with a crisp texture. When she claimed that grapefruit was her favorite fruit, it looked exactly like a word, “full of sweet honey, but with a satisfying bitterness”.
As drinking became more and more serious, her relationship with more and more skilled engineers became more and more serious. They broke up, and nunn found himself alone. One night, she put her misery on her facebook page. She woke up and felt ashamed, but she touched the nerve. Family and friends from all over the country invited her to visit. The soothing idea of a comfortable food journey has been formed, and after recovery, nunn is on his way.
Next comes a warm food, friendship and a simple, happy wildlife park. She went everywhere, and she and her master baked pies, roasted scallops, and made storms. Nunn is an excellent food writer, and the striking details of the exquisite luxury are “proper frying, tough ham slices and biscuits, with a slightly crispy exterior, dense inside, and buttered meat. The book is interleaved with the names of all kinds of masters, who have the goodness to sustain them: aunt maria’s; Tony’s tomato sauce, Irene’s savannah stew.
But every visit must end. And when her owners wave goodbye, they return to their spouses, partners, children, pets, work and life. Nunn was driven by “the constant fear of loneliness”.
The subtitle of this book, my pursuit of the perfect dish, to mend broken hearts, is slightly funny and misleading – food is not the main theme here. What is what, and how to inject it with deep and deep insight into nunn’s story, is another word that begins with F: the family.
Nunn is acutely aware that finding the perfect dish is a strange thing, because no bean or corn bread, no matter how perfectly cooked, can satisfy her hunger. But it’s very obvious – that’s what’s special about this book – Nunn is not looking for another engineer. On the contrary, when she mourned her brother oliver, she longed to reconnect with her “exquisitely dysfunctional” womb family and lose the silent wall.
When she returned to the dark heart of her heart, her hometown, Galax, Virginia, she recalled a fascination, a depressed mother and a distant father growing up. Some of the best chapters detail her continuing love-hate relationship with her caring but controlling sister Elaine. “Southern families”, she wrote, passed along silver and secret recipes, like everyone else.
Ironically, two prominent foods on her comfort food journey are those that are not particularly comfortable.
First of all, she and Elaine Shared a dinner with their sick father at ruby Tuesday (his choice). Nunn’s snobbishness is frustrating, but the time she spends with her father is crucial to helping her heal. For the first time, she and dad had a meaningful discussion – they talked about oliver. Surprisingly, ruby Tuesday’s steak and salad turned out to be “absolutely delicious.”
The second dinner was at Charleston, where the local cook invited her home and served it with chicken liver sauce. Nunn was disappointed that she had been hoping for shrimp and grit. But later, she realized that it was the cook who wanted to cook at home. He was “just being himself”, not to satisfy the expectations of others. It was an Epiphany that lit up her own tension: “I’m Elaine’s chicken liver (or maybe an engineer), but she always wanted shrimp and grit.
Food is thus a way of observing, a precious touchstone of “understanding what real love is”. Not just nunn, but all those who read this insightful, unforgiving, touching memoir.