I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily a completist. I’m fine to give up on series I’m not enjoying or DNF books I’m not feeling. But sometimes finishing something is just so satisfying 💗
I read my last unread traditional Mary Roach book last year, with Packing For Mars. I was going to call that done. But then my boyfriend happened to find My Planet, a collection of her humor columns that ran in Readers Digest starting in 2002, at this month’s library book sale. I of course snatched it right up 📚
Now, would I say this addition to the Mary Roach bibliography is necessary for fans to read? Absolutely not. If you’re familiar with her style in her “curious science” books, you’ll know she loves a good aside or side joke. This collection is like 200 pages of extended jokes and asides. Being short magazine columns, it’s to be expected that she can’t go into much depth. You get a fair bit of fun tidbits about life with her husband and her thoughts of things she finds funny or strange, but for the most part this collection is pretty forgettable.
So glad I can finally, truly say I’ve read every Mary Roach book, but as far as My Planet goes, don’t go rushing out to find yourself a copy! My favorites of hers remains Stiff and Grunt (her first and last books), the curious science of cadavers and the military respectively.
“Our humanity is worth a little discomfort, it’s actually worth a lot of discomfort.”
I come to this book as a white woman from the poor South (🙋🏻♀️ Hi nice to me you) So it should come as no surprise that I’ve found myself struggle-busing my way through a lot of difficult conversations with various friends/family members —both “well meaning” and those definitely not.
So when Ijeoma Oluo opens this book with an argument that I’ve had at least a dozen times, I ~knew~ this was a book I needed and will shove into even more hands. She tackles everything from the “but what about poor white people/can’t we just solve poverty first?” in those first pages and goes on to intersectionality, privilege, microaggressions, the model minority, being called racist and so much more.
Oluo tackles everything in ways that are so personal to her. You hear her exasperation dealing with her white mother; her care in raising her son; her frustration when she struggles to be heard as a black woman writer. And at the same time explains things in a way so useful to a wider audience, in a memoir-guidebook mashup. She delivers her arguments passionately with a straightforward humor as if she was a friend grabbing your hand and saying “Yea, this if f*cked up but you can do this.”
These are conversations we should all be having, as we examine our privilege and blindspots and work on anti-racism efforts. And whether you start with the basics with this book, or pick up one like it (White Fragility, How To Be An Antiracist, My Time Among the Whites among others (I’ll be picking more of these up myself soon)), it’s worth sitting in our discomfort to try to make the world better one conversation at a time.
Title: The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table
Author: Rick Bragg
Publication Year: 2018
Rating: 4.5 stars
Synopsis: Margaret Bragg does not own a single cookbook. She measures in “dabs” and “smidgens” and “tads” and “you know, hon, just some.” She cannot be pinned down on how long to bake corn bread (“about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the mysteries of your oven”). Her notion of farm-to-table is a flatbed truck. But she can tell you the secrets to perfect mashed potatoes, corn pudding, redeye gravy, pinto beans and hambone, stewed cabbage, short ribs, chicken and dressing, biscuits and butter rolls. Many of her recipes, recorded here for the first time, pre-date the Civil War, handed down skillet by skillet, from one generation of Braggs to the next. In The Best Cook in the World,Rick Bragg finally preserves his heritage by telling the stories that framed his mother’s cooking and education, from childhood into old age. Because good food always has a good story, and a recipe, writes Bragg, is a story like anything else.
I like to say “I was born in the South, but I’m not a product of the South.” So I know good food but I am also at a distance where I can easily detach and see its flaws. So when I read books like this that viscerally remind me of my roots and of my family, there’s a tendency to feel conflicted. But thankfully, this book was full of the good food and family and left the white supremacy in the freezer to unpack another day.
I’ve enjoyed Rick Bragg’s books since they were assigned in my journalism program. So when I saw he was writing a memoir/cookbook about his family, I knew I’d eventually read it. (If only because after a year in DC I’ve yet to find any mac n’ cheese or biscuits that are worth a damn.)
What I got when listening was major deja vu. I had so many moments of “are you sure you’re not talkin’ about my own grandma?” in the first 3 chapters that I stopped keeping track. He captures the personality of the matriarchs in his family with such skill that it’s like I knew them in the end. You can hear his momma piping up when he asks “dumb” questions about the recipes she never wrote down for herself. Even the recipes themselves are infused with their voices.
With the recipes comes a memoir of a poor white family living and cooking their way through the 1900s. Bragg details a little of the wider world, with snippets of “the black diner on the other side of the tracks was also serving up the same food,” but his focus is what he knows: the stories of his family, in a sort of time capsule.
This is a memoir of his family, and without meaning, to it’s a memoir of the South. But only the good parts. The hospitality and the unpretentious charm. There’s this feeling of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” which sounds quaint – but only if you don’t look too hard.
All of that to say is I’ll be putting it in the hands of my mother and aunts as soon as I can. And I need to bake some biscuits – stat!
Do you love audiobooks or want to give them a try in the new year? I’m helping a local bookstore give away a 3-month subscription to Libro.FM over on my Instagram.
Libro.FM is an audiobook platform that, for the same cost as Audible, lets you support your local bookstore when you buy audiobooks. In this Year of Indies, why wouldn’t you want to support your own indie? So whether you’re an audio novice looking to try something new in 2019 or an audiobook obsessive like me, this would give you 3 months to potentially find a new favorite book!
HOW TO ENTER! 📚 • Follow me on Instagram ⭐️ • Like this post ⭐️ • Comment with a favorite audiobook or an anticipated read for the year ⭐️
EXTRA ENTRIES (up to 2) • Tag a bookish friend in your comment ⭐️ • Share my post to your Instagram stories and tag me. ⭐️
RULES! 📚 • Must be a public account • Must live in the U.S. or Canada (Libro.fm rules not mine) • No giveaway accounts • Giveaway will close at 12 midnight on Friday, Jan. 18.
Hello, everyone! As I’ve said in the last few posts, my job had been crazy dealing with the election (I worked from 5 am to 1 am Tuesday, then back to work again at 6), so I missed WWW Wednesday. But I’ve still been reading a ton so I didn’t think it was a good idea to just combine weeks, so here’s what I’ve read so far in November. Continue reading “What I’ve read so far in November | Weekly Reading Wrap Up”→
It’s WWW Wednesday, a tag hosted on Taking on a World of Words It’s easy to do, just answer the three questions below! This is late and also the only post I’ve had since last week because I went into a “first-autumn-cold coma,” but I’m alive now! (Sort of)
It’s WWW Wednesday, a tag hosted on Taking on a World of Words It’s easy to do, just answer the three questions below! My post is coming to you a little bit later than I hoped because I finished two things yesterday, so I had to amend all of my answers.
The book details tips and reflections about influence and creativity. Its also jam packed with quotes from artists, writers, musicians and many others — perfect for any Pinterest board or real-life inspiration collection if that’s your thing.