The Year of Miracles, by Ella Risbridger

Recently I went to a bookstore and bought two hardcover new releases. You’d think, knowing how much I love to read, that this is a pretty common occurrence, but it’s actually not. While I am a voracious reader, most of the fiction I read is in the form of e-books, and most non-fiction in audiobooks, often borrowed from the library and well suited for rapid consumption. Books I love enough to own I normally buy in trade paperback, my favourite book format to look at and hold. I actively dislike the feel of most hardcover books in my hand, so rarely buy them.

However, Ella Risbridger’s new cookbook/memoir The Year of Miracles is one that I had to have in print, and I had no intention of waiting a year for it to come out in paperback (the same is true of the other book I bought at the same time, which I’ll review next; Kate Beaton’s graphic-novel memoir, Ducks). I’d already read Risbridger’s Midnight Chicken, another cookbook/memoir mashup: in the review of that one I explained how I came to know of Ella Risbridger and her work, and why it fascinated me. I did read that one as an ebook, but decided I would like to own it eventually in paper, and I had to get this one as soon as it came out, even though I don’t know how many of the recipes I’ll ever try. It’s beautifully illustrated and a joy to look at, another reason, apart from the recipes, that I wanted a hard copy. But the heart of the book is Risbridger’s essays which introduce each recipe, her chronicle of rebuilding her life after a devastating loss, leaning on a circle of dear friends for support, living through 2020’s pandemic year, and falling in love again — cooking all the while.

If you’re one of those people who hates it when recipe blogs introduce the recipe with a long personal story you have to scroll through to get to the instructions and ingredients, you’re going to hate this book, so don’t bother — it’s not really, or mainly, a cookbook. I love Risbridger’s voice, and her insights, and her thoughtfulness about grief, loss, and putting both a meal, and your life, together again.

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