Relish, by Lucy Knisley, is a well-done graphic novel memoir with an interesting twist that I just can’t get excited about: all her stories revolve around food. As she says on the first page, “My most vivid memories consistently jog my brain with the recollection of how things tasted.”
I understand that. Knisley comes from a foodie parents, and I would love to attend a meal cooked by her, but I’m just not a foodie. I like good food, like to even cook some meals myself (my tacos are world famous) but left to my self, food is not my main priority. Or, that is, I’m ok with ok food. I do like the idea of a memoir centered around something, around a love of something, but for me, it would be music. I remember events and whole seasons by the music that came out that year.
Also, I’m a vegetarian, so some of the food Knisley describes liking, and making, kind of repels me: foie gras is gross, and unethical to me, though Knesley does include a memory as to why she enjoys eating goose. And, for example, lamb: I just can’t get into the idea of eating a baby sheep, even if I ate meat. But if that doesn’t bother you, and even sounds good, then read on, because there is much to enjoy. The artwork is solid, with sort of childlike colors that help capture the feel of childhood memories.
The book is divided into, or comes from, certain large chunks of Knisley’s life, especially vacations to Europe, Mexico and Japan, where she discovered wild and crazy foods, but also cemented a love of McDonalds, much to her father’s horror, because though she is a foodie, she still, perhaps oddly, argues for the value of junk food, because, well, it tastes good. Which may seem surprising, but, she shows, high-class food is not necessarily good for people either.
Between the large memoir chunks, Knisley offers recipes for some of the foods mentioned, with the added bonus of including hand-drawn pictures of the ingredients. A nice touch.
My quibble would be that I would have liked less about food, and more about memories. that is, more depth perhaps. For example, the Mexico vacation is the most interesting, with Knisley and her male friend Drew getting to explore San Miguel on their own, because their mothers are sick. The explorations becomes them leaving their “childhood selves” behind: she gets her first period, and he discovers, um, porn, and that a young teen boy can buy porn mags in Mexico, which he devours the whole time. Knisley portrays herself as being amused by this, though surely something else must have been going in her mind? Curiosity? Self-consciousness? Not sure, but that’s much more interesting than the types of candy they ate.
Three stars is still a good book. Some people will love it—just not me. If you love food, and graphic novel memoirs, this is the combo to get. With fries.