Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought me Home

This is part of my Summer Reads series where I’ll be reviewing a series of “not just cookbooks”.

Stir My Broken Brain cover on eatlivetravelwrite.comThis week’s Summer Read pick is a book that was released a few years ago but that was not on my radar at all until I read a piece by its author on Leite’s Culinaria last week. I was immediately drawn in by her style of writing – easy, conversational but dealing with big ideas and thoughts and looked up and purchased the book immediately. I finished reading it in less than 24 hours as well – starting it late at night and not being able to put it down – it’s one of those…

From the publisher:

At 28, Jessica Fechtor was happily immersed in graduate school and her young marriage, and thinking about starting a family. Then one day, she went for a run and an aneurysm burst in her brain. She nearly died. She lost her sense of smell, the sight in her left eye, and was forced to the sidelines of the life she loved.

Jessica’s journey to recovery began in the kitchen as soon as she was able to stand at the stovetop and stir. There, she drew strength from the restorative power of cooking and baking. Written with intelligence, humor, and warmth, Stir is a heartfelt examination of what it means to nourish and be nourished. 

Woven throughout the narrative are 27 recipes for dishes that comfort and delight. For readers of M.F.K.Fisher, Molly Wizenberg, and Tamar Adler, as well as Oliver Sacks, Jill Bolte Taylor, and Susannah Cahalan, Stir is sure to inspire, and send you straight to the kitchen.

I am a huge fan of “food memoirs” and so I knew I’d enjoy this one.  It’s extremely well written and totally doesn’t sensationalize the aneurysm and recovery at all – the whole medical side of the book is very matter of fact and reassuringly calm, despite how very scary the situation was. Given the subject matter, it could easily have been a totally different book but Fechtor connects everything together with her food memories so beautifully and easily. Throughout everything, food remains the constant, tying each storyline together as, indeed food binds together her old and new life.

The book moves back and forth in time, from when Fechtor and her now-husband first meet in university (and their subsequent long-distance relationship) to the present time where she has a bright future ahead of her in grad school until she is felled but the aneurysm. The story of her recovery is complex and extraordinary (and hard to read sometimes, you truly get the sense of slowness that a brain injury recovery moves with) and her ability to weave this recovery story into a cohesive novel that moves effortlessly around in time, connected by her connection to food, with recipes for each chapter, is extraordinary. Fechtor comes across as a genuinely lovely person which makes her predicament all the more difficult to read.

Her voice is gentle and calm. Questioning, sad, angry, exhausted. There’s a whole gamut of emotions richly explored as she moves through recovery, relapse (more surgeries), slow, painful recovery and continues her journey back to “normal”, with no sense of smell, her sense of taste “off” and the loss of sight in one eye. It’s the story of a brave woman who finds solace in food and cooking which are ultimately are the things which “bring her home”, back to her old/ new self. A remarkable read.

Stir My Broken Brain cover on

Buy Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought me Home on Amazon (this link should bring you to the Amazon store geographically closest to you) Or for free worldwide shipping, buy from The Book Depository.

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. This post also contains affiliate links from The Book Depository. This means that if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price (at no extra cost to you). Thank you in advance!


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