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Oh what a story. In a nutshell, at the age of twenty-eight, while at a graduate school conference in Vermont, Fechtor had a burst brain aneurysm while on a treadmill. She was away from home and without her family, but fortunately, friends and colleagues acted fast and got her admitted to the local hospital, which immediately transferred her to a level 1 trauma unit in Stowe.
From there, Fechtor underwent repeated surgeries, battled infections, lost the sight in one eye, temporarily lost her sense of smell, and was required to wear a helmet on her head for almost two years. She underwent therapy, was forced to put her professional life on hold, was told she might not be able to have children, and had many psychological hurdles to clear.
Throughout it all, she was fortunate to have the never-ending support of her family, her husband, her in-laws, and close friends. The other strong element in her life that kept Fechtor motivated and helped her heal was spending time in her beloved kitchen, baking, hosting parties, and feeding those she loves best.
Stir is an emotionally strong memoir with four interwoven paths: Fechtor and her husband's families, their courtship, her accident and recovery, and food and cooking. This is not your typical food memoir. Fechtor didn't travel the world discovering new flavors and ingredients. She didn't find god, love, or miracles in the kitchen.
Stir is, however, ripe with the deep significance of food and cooking: the idea of food as the symbol for life, for moving forward, for growing; the act of cooking as solace, as nurturing, as giving; and the way people are bound together over something as small as an almond cookie that comes in a fancy orange tin.
Get out your tissues because you'll cry with Jessica Fechtor -- sometimes with joy and sometimes with sorrow. Then wash your hands and head to the kitchen and be kind to yourself and your loved ones.
The food: Fechtor included a handful of recipes in Stir and all look wonderful. Many of them can be found on her popular food blog Sweet Amadine, which she started when she was still trying to teach herself how to reenter the world after she was released from the hospital. In 2009, a friend of hers told her to create a food blog to help fill her days, and so Fechtor did. You'll find her story and a ton of delicious recipes there.
I'll leave you with a passage from Stir I love -- one that might change me.
Being sick, it turns out, is an education in the art of guesting. I didn't see it that way at the time, likely because I didn't know that there were important things still to learn. . . .Published by Avery, 2015
A good guest allows herself to be hosted. That means saying, "yes, please," when you're offered a cup of tea instead of rushing to get it yourself. It means staying in your chair, enjoying good company and your first glass of wine while your host ladles soup into bowls. . . . To allow her to take care of you is to allow your host her generosity. I'd always been too distracted by my own desire to be useful to understand this. I got it now.
Source: borrowed (see review policy)
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