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Lose your heart on way to kitchen

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My Berlin Kitchen

A Love Story (With Recipes)

By Luisa Weiss

Viking, 297 pages, $27

Born in Germany in 1977 to an Italian mother and an American father, Luisa Weiss spent much of her childhood shuttling from school in Boston to summer and winter vacations in Berlin and Italy.

This nomadic lifestyle and the many goodbyes were hard on her, and she started teaching herself to cook.

"As I grew up, moving around from Berlin to Boston to Paris to New York," she writes in this delightful debut, "I discovered that cooking was the most reliable way to feel less alone."

In My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (With Recipes), Weiss, a former book editor, turns her well-followed food blog, The Wednesday Chef, into a lovely memoir and cookbook, chronicling her search for herself and a true sense of home.

Each chapter is a well-formed and beautiful little essay about a person or a moment in her life, each ending with a recipe. There are familiar recipes, such as a basic tomato sauce, along with more unusual combinations, like Sicilian pizza with escarole or baby artichokes and potatoes.

The book has an almost effortless flow. Weiss tells of her year in Paris where she met her boyfriend Max, and her decision to leave Paris and move to New York, leaving Max behind.

As she moved from place to place, building her publishing career, she clipped recipes from newspapers and magazines and copied them from books, amassing a large collection of meals to be made "someday."

Then she discovered Julie Powell, a food blogger working her way through Julia Child's seminal cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

This led her to find other blogs written by men and women her age learning to cook and sharing their experiences. Weiss was inspired to create her own blog to share stories of her life as she worked through her library of clippings.

"Through the blog, I was finding new friends who felt the same way about food that I did, who loved being in the kitchen as much as I did, for whom food was a currency as potent and real as any dollar bill."

After breaking up with a longtime boyfriend, Weiss gave in to her travel habit and homesickness. She moved back to Berlin, and to Max.

While settling in wasn't as easy as she'd hoped, she learned that sometimes, you can go home again -- you just have to work a little harder to make it all yours.

Weiss's narrative and recipes blend together seamlessly. Her portraits of her family and friends, such as the tale of her early childhood with her father and a study of her mother, are generous, honest and sweet, but not saccharine.

Her recipes are simple and classic with a modern feel, and the well-written instructions will comfort a less experienced cook without boring a more experienced chef.

My Berlin Kitchen is sure to make you hungry and inspire you to head to the kitchen, stealing your heart along the way.

Julie Kentner is a Winnipeg writer and food blog enthusiast.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 22, 2012 J8

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