Molly Wizenberg's blog, Orangette, was named the world's best food blog by the London Times. Her lively 2014 memoir about her husband Brandon's dream of opening a pizza joint in Seattle and what happens along the way says as much about maintaining a healthy, happy albeit imperfect marriage as it does about good food. Reading Delancey feels more like chatting with a friend than reading a book. Wizenberg's breezy, fluid writing brings recipes and cooking to life and broadens the reader's understanding of how to think about creating a meal.
Molly and Brandon's marriage contains many passions: Brandon's passion for violins, boats, pizza and music (he left a PhD program in music composition to pursue the opening of Delancey), Molly's passion for writing (she is also the author of the best-selling book A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table) and their shared passion for food.
One of the most interesting parts of the book is the connection it draws between the art of cooking and the art of musical composition:
"When you're looking to write a piece of music, let's say, violin, you must first listen to as many other pieces for violin as you possibly can. You don't just sit down, tune into your inner artiste, commune with your Muse, and write: you research. You study, asking why a given piece works the way it does, why the instrument itself works the way it does. Then, later, when you go to write your own piece, you have within you a library... "
Molly and Brandon take this approach in their search to compose the perfect pizza dough. Together, they eat their way through legendary high- and low-end pizza joints throughout the country. They struggle to balance her writing career, his sidelined music career, two abandoned PhD programs between them and the brutal demands that opening a restaurant entails. Along the way, their relationship is stretched, strained, twisted and tested to its limits. As the chatty author opens up about her reservations and resentment, she throws opens a window into the inner emotional struggles that can beset even the happiest of marriages:
"In the beginning, I would be mopping the kitchen floor after the last customer had gone home, thinking, I can't believe I have to mop this stupid, stupid, stupid floor. Why does pizza have to be so messy? Why is pizza so STUPID? Maybe if I impale myself on this broom handle, I can actually go to the hospital, and MAYBE THERE I CAN ACTUALLY GET SOME SLEEP... I didn't want anything that a restaurant stands for. I didn't want him to work nights and holidays. I didn't want to eat dinner alone. My interest in food has always been about sharing it- about a kitchen table, about home cooking, not restaurants. I like the intimacy, the quiet, the scale of home cooking."
The most important truth about marriage that unfolds through Wizenberg's candor is that happy marriages are rarely if ever conflict-free. In fact, conflict often represents that two people are engaged enough with one another to bump up against each other and disagree. What matters is working through conflicts in a productive way. Certain conflicts may never be wrapped up in a tidy bow and placed on the shelf, but this book shows that perfect resolution is not always necessary. As Molly and Brandon voice their differing views about Delancey and its role in their marriage and respective individual lives, readers will enjoy the realness of their beautiful union as much as they will the simple, sweet, flavor-focused recipes interspersed through this uplifting tale of love, food, music and marriage, and the relationship between them all.
NOTE: I was inspired to read Delancey after visiting the restaurant with my family. (My husband's brother and his family live in Ballard; they are big fans.) The servers' vibe and the modest, down-to-earth decor compliment the flavorful food. Together, they achieve Wizenberg's stated dream that the experience feel more like a lively dinner party in someone's welcoming home than a night out on the town. So far I have tested out the recipes for Chilled Peaches and for Tomato and Corn Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette and plan to incorporate both into my regular rotation!
This review originally posted on the DC Counseling and Psychotherapy Center biblio-therapy blog.