The Bread and the Knife: A Life in 26 Bites (Hardcover)
"You'll wish the alphabet had more letters just so Dawn Drzal would keep on writing.”—Laura Shapiro, author of What She Ate, Julia Child, Something from the Oven, and Perfection Salad
As it was for M. F. K. Fisher in The Gastronomical Me, food is more than a metaphor in The Bread and the Knife. It is the organizing principle of an existence. Starting with "A Is for Al Dente," the loosely linked chapters evoke an alphabet of food memories that recount a woman’s emotional growth from the challenges of youth to professional accomplishment, marriage, and divorce.
Betrayal is embodied in an overripe melon, her awakening in a Béarnaise sauce. Passion fruit juice portends the end of a first marriage, while tarte Tatin offers redemption. Each letter serves up a surprising variation on the struggle for self-knowledge, the joy and pain of familial and romantic love, and food’s astonishing ability to connect us with both the living and the dead.
There is a chapter for every letter of the alphabet. Highlights include: A is for Al Dente, B is for Béarnaise, C is for Crab, D is for Dinner Party, K is for Kielbasa, L is for Lobster Roll, P is for Passion Fruit, Q is for Quail, T is for Tarte Tatin, V is for “Vegetarian, W is for White Truffles, Z is for Zucchini Blossoms.
Ranging from her grandmother's suburban kitchen to an elegant New York restaurant, a longhouse in Borneo, and a palace in Rajasthan, The Bread and the Knife charts the vicissitudes of a woman forced to swallow some hard truths about herself while discovering that the universe can dispense surprising second chances.
The book includes six recipes that run the gamut from "Crepes Filled with Huitlacoche" to her stepfather’s homely “Stromboli Stuffing,” including a couple that are more entertaining to read about than to prepare, like liquified olives with pimento.
About the Author
Dawn Drzal, a former cookbook editor, has published articles and essays in the New York Times, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Food & Wine, O., and the Antioch Review. Between 2006 and 2016, she was a regular contributor to the New York Times Book Review. Her essays have been anthologized in, among other places, Eat Memory: Great Writers at the Table, edited by Amanda Hesser. She lives in New York City with her son.
"Evocative . . . Drzal traces the delicate emotions packed into a scene with the precision of a miniaturist. She is particularly skilled at conveying the quality of pleasure taken in the face of loss . . . [and has] a knack for metaphors so perfect as to seem inevitable."
—New York Times Book Review, "Editors' Choice"
"A memoir along the lines of M.F.K. Fisher's epic epicurean book, The Gastronomical Me."—BeautifulNow, "Most Beautiful New Memoirs"
“Sumptuous . . . Employing various dishes or meals as Proustian madeleines, the author dives into the sensuous experiences of her life.”—Booklist
"The elusive feelings come and go and leave readers hungry by association, as Drzal strongly connects intimacy with eating, offering portraits of who she chooses to share meals with, recalling the influence of M.F.K. Fisher."—Library Journal
“Drzal artfully demonstrates how certain meals, no matter how simple or ornate, can resonate for years.”—Publishers Weekly
"Dawn Drzal may not be a household name, though that could soon change. Her new food memoir, The Bread and the Knife: A Life in 26 Bites, checks all the right boxes: It offers great storytelling, memorable foods, and essential life lessons imparted from the kitchen."—Portland Press Herald
“Sumptuous, sensuous . . . Drzal is a gifted storyteller who mixes humor and pathos as deftly as whisking scrambled eggs. . . . The Bread and the Knife joins the ranks of my other favorites in the cooking and food memoir genre, . . . I loved it .”—Books is Wonderful
“A deeply engaging collection of beautifully written story essays in which food triggers memory in a Proustian way.”—topcookbox.com
“Each of the twenty-six brief, glowing chapters in this book unwraps a food memory . . . arranged A to Z, and you'll wish the alphabet had more letters just so Dawn Drzal would keep on writing.”—Laura Shapiro, author of What She Ate, Julia Child, Something from the Oven, and Perfection Salad
“Dawn Drzal has captured the joy and poetry of feeding and being fed—loving and being loved, however imperfectly. The Bread and the Knife is a lexicon of life and the food that sustains us through each joy and sorrow. I want to spend hours in her pages and at her table.”—Giulia Melucci, author of I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti
"Dawn Drzal's The Bread and the Knife is a refreshingly honest book, self-reflective, and funny. Drzal is an apt storyteller, and her memories are vivid enough to keep you turning pages. Plus, the recipe for white borscht alone is worth the price of the book.”—Tamar Adler, author of An Everlasting Meal and Something Old, Something New
"Food expresses our bounty and generosity, love of family and friends, sure. But food is also inextricably wound up in regret, fear, betrayal and failure, which is harder to swallow (as it were.) Drzal capture how the pleasures and frustrations of providing sustenance for one's loved ones and oneself seep into all of our painful, wondrous human experiences. Spanning the globe yet never straying from the intimacy of the simplest of meals, The Bread and the Knife cuts into the stuff of life, both the dramatic and the prosaic, and the stuff of sustenance is the blade."—Julie Powell, author of Julie and Julia and Cleaving
“What I love about The Bread and the Knife is how food inserts itself into our lives, lingering to be recalled when needed. While this is Dawn Drzal’s personal story, it makes me think that surely we must all have our own versions of how food walks in and out of our lives along with loves and losses.” —Deborah Madison, author of Vegetable Literacy and In My Kitchen