Now you must put away the tiny violins before you read Alyssa Shelasky’s memoir, Apron Anxiety: My Messy Affairs In and Out of the Kitchen, or it’s likely to annoy the shit out of you. It’s a #firstworldproblems memoir – well-off girl makes good on her dream to be a writer living in New York; has a few disastrous love-affairs; can’t cook but falls in love with a celebrity chef (known only as Chef) and then begins her own food blog. Which of course is wildly successful. And now she’s editor of New York magazine’s gossipy Grub Street (it’s like Epicure’s Espresso column to the power of one hundred). But don’t hate Alyssa too much because her memoir is incredibly entertaining in a salacious, trashy-mag, celebrity-gossip kind of way. With recipes. I loved it.
Here’s a taste of Shelasky’s observant, funny, glamorous and real writing style –
“I add zucchini, not sure if I should peel it, so I don’t. And in the end, my vegetables are chunky and vibrant, like cocktail rings and Marimekko bags.”
“It’s been two months since I learned that béarnaise isn’t the name of a senior citizen and that the act of trussing relates to roast chicken, not eighties hair.”
“Dara’s friends stroll in with their huge screenplays and deep sighs and it is evident that this no-bullshit crowd is ready for dinner.”
My only quibble with Alyssa’s story? I wasn’t entirely convinced that she loved cooking as quickly and whole-heartedly as she reported. To fly to the other side of the country, nursing a broken heart, and to be picked up by your bestie late at night from the airport, only to request to be taken to the nearest supermarket so that you can knock up a meal? It seemed a little obsessive. A little far-fetched. I think most people in the same situation would say to their bestie “Let’s put on our trackies, sit on the couch, eat ice cream and drink.” Particularly when she starts the book with bits like this –
“To some people, food can be better than sex. I am categorically not one of them. No food tastes as good as a great kiss… I’ll go even further: no food tastes as good as watching Little Miss Sunshine in my sweatpants, getting a Thai massage for ten dollars, reading a juicy book on a long train, finishing a spin class without cheating, listening to ‘Empire State of Mind’ while walking the Brooklyn Bridge, or unhooking my bra after a hard day’s work.”
Agree about the bra bit. I’m prepared to put the ‘pick-me-up-from-the-airport-take-me-to-a-supermarket’ bit aside because Apron Anxiety is a terrific read.
Some people look for deep messages or life lessons in memoirs. There’s plenty of material in Alyssa’s story if you’re questioning lasting love, compromise in relationships or finding your passion. But the truest, most universal message is simple –
“At this point in my life, I’ve learned that everybody hurts and everybody is hungry.”
4/5 Now I wanted a happy ending for Alyssa and Chef but this book is ‘real life’, so things don’t always work out the way you’d like. That said, Alyssa’s blog suggests that all is right in her world and happily, it also sounds like there’s another book on the way – she can chalk up an advance sale to me.
I want to cook every single one of the recipes in Apron Anxiety. They vary from ‘The Pasta’ and Chicken for Hungry and Important People (Herb Crusted Chicken) to Gourmet Macaroni and Cheese and Life-Altering Lemon Cake. The fact that I read this book on my Kindle is a royal-pain-in-the-arse because I’ve had to add all the delicious recipes to My Clippings, transfer them to the computer and extract them into a printable format *not complaining, just saying*.