Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor

This is an extraordinary book.

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The writing is exceptional.  You are transported into Jess’s world – you can smell the aromas she describes, imagine the texture of the berries she ate while in the hospital, you can feel the frustration she expresses. Very descriptive writing.

For anyone who hasn’t read the synopsis or jacket, here is what it’s about.  A young woman has an aneurysm as she is running on a treadmill.  This is a healthy woman who is in graduate school at Harvard.  She nearly died and went through multiple surgeries.  Her skull was cut apart and deformed, she lost vision in one eye and yet with all the odds stacked against her – she persevered.  She survived and while she was recovering, she thought about the foods that made a difference in her life and above all – she remained positive.

There are 33 chapters with 26 of those followed by a recipe.  I have prepared several already and can endorse those as keepers.

In the chapter titled The All Clear,  Jessica writes about her blog Sweet Amandine.

People were reading my blog.  They were leaving comments, sending emails, asking questions about my recipes and sharing their own.  We talked about soup and scones; crisp roasted chickpeas; sesame noodles made with oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar, and no peanut butter, thank you very much.  We did not talk about my brain.  they didn’t ask me about my blind eye, insist that I sit down, or place a hand on my shoulder and tear up.

I can’t imagine how wonderful that was for Jess to share and talk about something besides her brain and how she was doing.  A space on the Internet where she was just a regular person, doing regular things and the common interest was cooking. No one treated her differently.

The constant love and support from her family will blow you away.  Her husband, her parents and friends – complete and total support.  I loved the stories about them as well as reading Jess’ thoughts.

It’s an inspirational book, it’s a love story, it’s a foodie book with a slice of life.

I selected this book for two events.  Cook the Books has this featured as the December/January selection.

The other  event is a new reading challenge I joined this year.  It’s the 2017 Monthly Motif Challenge hosted at Girlxoxo.  The monthly motif for January is Diversify your ReadingKick the reading year off right and shake things up. Read a book with a character (or written by an author) of a race, religion, or sexual orientation other than your own.

I’m not Christian or Jewish so typically, I don’t read books that are religious in nature.  This isn’t a religious book but the author is Jewish and her religion and culture figure in to the story.  I very much enjoyed the sense of community and how the family and friends came together with complete love and support.  The description of kosher foods and the process of cooking is addressed.  Eating out the kosher way can be an issue but that was addressed too. It was interesting and, more importantly, I learned something reading this book.

There are still a few recipes I want to make but I will share the Pan-Roasted Salmon and the Brown Soda Bread.

The salmon was easy enough but I had a time cleaning my cast iron frying pan!  Delicious meal and I would make this again.

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The Brown Soda Bread challenged me because this was one of the few times I managed to use our digital kitchen scale and – thanks to my husband’s assistance – it was measured properly.  This came out well and I will most certainly be making this again.

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For the soda bread recipe head over to Squirrel Head Manor HERE.  The salmon was a breeze.  It’s on page 58 in the book.

Pan-Roasted Salmon

1 tablespoon flaked sea salt

2 pieces of salmon fillet with skin on, about a 1/3 pound each

Olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper and lemon wedges

Method:  Scatter the salt over a 10 inch dry, well-seasoned cast iron pan.  Place pan over medium heat for 3 minutes.  While the pan heats dry the fillets with a paper towel and lay them on a plate.  Brush with olive oil on both sides.

Place fish in hot pan, skin side down.  Turn heat down if the crackle sounds too sputtery. Cover with a lid.  Cook without moving fillets for 3 to 5 minutes.  Flip them and cook for another 2 to 4 minutes, depending on their thickness.

Serve with pepper and lemon.  Brilliant!

Don’t forget that soda bread!

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Adding my review to Goodreads and Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

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33 thoughts on “Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the book and that you joined in Cook the Books for this round! Both the salmon and the soda bread look delicious. I need to restock my freezer wild salmon again–I have been craving it and this just makes me crave it more! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, great pick, Deb. I saw this book come up in discussions and way back then I didn’t think I’d like reading about the medical parts. But it was all very interesting.

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  2. Good review Tina, and I’m looking forward to reading it. Still waiting for my copy to come in. I’ve not made soda bread in so long I don’t even remember what it’s like. Got to change that picture!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reading outside one’s own familiar area is really a great thing. I love to do it. Right now I’m reading about Istanbul, where I visited as a tourist but have no other connections or ethnic background. But I loved the food!

    I’ll check out that challenge.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The salmon looks great! We often grill ours, but I’m going to keep this in mind (despite the difficult cast-iron cleanup!). I loved STIR and I’m happy you did too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This book sounds incredible! I love that the author has turned the whole experience into something the reader can actually partake in through the recipes. Your dinner looks lovely and I am glad that the bread was so successful! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have quite a few salmon recipes and find this intriguing sprinkling the salt in the pan.
    I’m Irish and have trouble making soda bread so I will try this. Only thing is I now have to cook gluten free….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gluten free would be a challenge with this bread. We went gluten free for over a year so Doug could g off Prilosec. Turns out it’s gluten that gives him awful heartburn.

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  7. I enjoyed the book as well and was also struck by the comfort of having conversations with people that only knew the blogger and not the broken person. Very impressed that you made two recipes. This salmon is on my list too.

    Liked by 1 person

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