Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor is the December/January selection for Cook the Books. Deb from Kahakai Kitchen is the current host. I am so glad she picked this book. I really enjoyed it, Deb!
Jessica Fechtor must be a remarkable person. She is, no doubt, obviously resilient. Fechtor relates her very personal journey of recovery in very intimate ways.
As a fit and active twenty-something, she suffers a brain aneurysm while away from home at a conference. That she survived the aneurysm in itself is a heroic tale, but Fechtor also faced physical therapy, a severe infection, numerous surgeries, the loss of sight in one eye, and her loss of smell. Along the way she has her devoted family and friends around her.
I could not believe all of the health issues that kept piling up for Fechtor. It seems that just when she felt that recovery was within her grasp, some other related ailment would befall her. In the final chapters of the book as she was preparing for her final surgery (to fix her truly broken brain), I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I kept thinking, “What else could possibly happen to her?”
Fechtor traces her recovery and reminisces about her life through recipes and meals. Her voice and tone carry a casual familiarity and I felt like I was listening to a close friend.
Since we are on a rice bowl diet that focuses on veggies, I decided to make the sesame noodle dish that she highlights in Chapter 25. I did swap out the sugar and added honey and threw in some broccoli for a healthier meal.
12 oz. frozen broccoli florets or one large head of broccoli chopped
16 oz. angel hair pasta
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 T. honey
6 T. rice vinegar
6 T. soy sauce
2 T. sesame oil (I used a “fiery” sesame oil.)
1/2 c. chopped green onions, white and green parts
3 T. toasted sesame seeds
Steam broccoli and cook pasta according to directions.
While broccoli and pasta are cooking, place the minced garlic, honey, vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a blender and pulse until blended. Set aside.
When pasta is cooked and drained, place it in a serving boil. Toss pasta with sauce, broccoli, and green onions. Garnish with sesame seeds.
This dish can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold.
I made this dish to take to a work-related pot luck meal. (This recipe makes a lot of noodles.)
I ate the leftovers the rest of the week as a cold salad which is how I prefer this dish.
So many of Fechtor’s stories revolve around the communal table whether it was her college Shabbat meals or her weekly Friday night meals with friends and neighbors that I thought the sharing of this dish appropriate for this particular pot luck. (We also have one vegetarian on staff and I always try to make something that she can eat.)
Fechtor also blogs at Sweet Amandine, another therapy for her recovery. In this same chapter in which these noodles are mentioned, Fechtor discusses her reading of How to Cook a Wolf by M.F.K. Fisher at about the same time she started her blog. She writes:
From my own experiences with a wolf of a different kind, I knew that she was onto something. To trust in your own aliveness, in your own ability to sustain and be sustained—there are times when there is no greater act of defiance.
Fechtor certainly must have embraced defiance while meeting all of her health issues with resiliency, grace, and gratitude.
Again, thank you, Deb, for hosting and selecting this wonderful book. I have been passing my copy around the office and so far everyone is enjoying Stir. You can read my other Stir review at Goodreads.
Please join Cook the Books! Membership is open to anyone; all you need do is read the current selection, get inspired to cook or bake, and post your thoughts and shared recipe. Our next selection is Dinner with Edward, A Story of Unexpected Friendship by Isabel Vincent (2016) hosted by Claudia at Honey from Rock. The deadline for submissions is March 31, 2017. (For more information, click here.)
Sharing this with Deb’s Souper Sunday at Kahakai Kitchen.