Recipe for Disaster

40 Superstar Stories of Sustenance and Survival

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Pub Date 14 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 13 Mar 2023

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Recipe for Disaster is a collection of stories and recipes—from a veritable who’s who from the worlds of food, music, art, literature, activism, fashion, and pop culture—about finding comfort in food, surviving the unthinkable, and living to tell about both.

Discover how getting dumped led to author Samantha Irby's Rejection Chicken. Comedian Sarah Silverman tells of the power of the humble Pinwheel cookie that got her through bouts of crippling childhood depression. Culinary legend Alice Waters reflects on how a perfectly dressed salad has carried her and her chosen family through loneliness and uncertainty. Here are forty recipes—some traditional, some unconventional—that commemorate the low points with the same culinary conviction with which we celebrate the highs. Part cookbook, part candid confessions, this book of good food for bad times reminds us that even the worst of days yield something worth sharing.

Recipe for Disaster is a collection of stories and recipes—from a veritable who’s who from the worlds of food, music, art, literature, activism, fashion, and pop culture—about finding comfort in...

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ISBN 9781797212821
PRICE $27.95 (USD)

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Average rating from 47 members

Featured Reviews

Recipe for Disaster starts so well. The first recipe is Samantha Irby’s Rejection Chicken.

First things first, you gotta get dumped.”

The whole recipe is the story of heartbreak, self soothing, and chopping and cooking.

I like to slice them on a severe angle because it looks cool and chef-y, but honestly? It doesn’t matter! Does anything??????

Same, Samantha Irby, same. I don’t just eat my feelings, I cook my feelings too. Sometimes I need to fiercely chop a lot of things, and sometimes I need to languidly stir.

The next entry is Sarah Silverman’s remembrances about her first depression and the pinwheel cookies that were the only thing that brought her any joy.

As with the above recipe, sometimes the most comforting thing is that thing you bought at the store.

That’s what Recipe for Disaster is – 41 people sharing a bite from their life and the food that got them through it or is the memory they carry. A little memoir, a little cookbook, a little connection with human beings.

I did not intend to start this book and finish it today. When I initially looked at it, I thought I’d read a couple of entries a day and then try some recipes and get a review out in 2023 (it’s publication date is March 14, 2023). Instead I started with Samantha Irby and every time I tried to put it down, I picked it back up until I gave in and read through. Some bites contain a recipe written out in recipe form, some are a description of a meal or food, sometimes there is a memory and then a recipe and you have to assume they are related, because the memory wasn’t specifically about the recipe, but the moment. One bite isn’t about food at all. There is quite a bit of pandemic cooking, both people who took up cooking to pass the time, and those cooking to nurture their families. Not all the food shared was good, but good isn’t always the point of sharing food.

Alison Riley says in her introduction:

Recipe for Disaster aims to remember, without hierarchy or judgement, that our lowest moments offer something worth sharing: stories, food, and the welcome reminder that we’ve all been there.

Mission accomplished.

CW: depression, death, illness, pet death, war, 9/11, loss of parent, reference to childhood sexual assault.

I received this as an advance reader copy from Chronicle Books and NetGalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.

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The kitchen table is truly the heartbeat of my home. It’s where we celebrate and commiserate the same way- loudly.

“Food is an integral part of our emotional lives” the introduction of this book begins and then tells the stories that prove it. Part confessional and part recipes this book brings the heart.

Foodies will love it.

*will post my review to Goodreads closer to publication

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This is a unique collection of stories.

This book was around 3.5 stars for me.

Focusing on difficult moments in life and low moments this is a collection of stories around food. There's a handful of recipes included in the book pertaining to the story being shared. There's some very famous names in this book like Sarah Silverman, Bowen Yang, and Samantha Irby.

I wish there was some consistency between if the story is a recipe or a story, but the uniqueness of each entry reflects the author that shares it. This is a short and sweet book about some tough times and the food that goes with it.

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I have to admit it. What really attracted me to this book was the cover. But what kept me interested were the essays (and the recipes). Recipe for Disaster is a collection of essays from a wide range of people from the worlds of the arts, food, activism, culture, etc. and they're generally geared toward comfort food. While I may not have heard of many of the writers, their stories were generally interesting and, in several cases like Michael Twitty, very touching. There's a great diversity of writers and recipes, which are as simple as a fruit cup or tuna sandwich. But what is really striking are the photographs in the book - definitely not the typical food styling you see in many food-related books.
I was happy to see that Jacqueline Woodson and I have something in common. Both of us had to face a childhood dinner of liver and onions and needed to come up with creative ways to dispose of it.
Thanks to Netgalley and Chronicle Books for the opportunity to read Recipe for Disaster in exchange for an honest review!

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Allison Riley has put together a collection with an intriguing theme: personal stories of disastrous life experiences and the foods and recipes that made these experiences more bearable.
The most celebrated of this individuals is probably Alice Walker, who provides her recipe for vinaigrette (simple but elegant) and Sarah Silverman, who relates how (store bought) chocolate covered pinwheel cookies saved her during her first experience of severe depression.
All the stories are clearly heartfelt and revealing, sometimes raw; like potato chips, you cannot stop at one.
Illustrations are beautiful and inventively complement the stories. Recommended for lovers of food and personal anecdotes.

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Recipe for Disaster is a lovely book of short essays that depict times in a persons life where life threw them a curve ball and how food played a role in recovering from their own personal disaster Each essay is from a different person. To be honest I didn’t recognize the names of some of rhe author. But that did not affect my enjoyment of their works. I found the stories engaging and reminded me of events in my own life.

The book is a quick read. The essays are mostly two to three pages. As an added bonus recipes are included

I’d like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Qll opinions are mine and mine alone.

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Do you eat when you are upset? Cooks when you are angry? Comfort yourself with special treats? You aren’t alone. Forty talented writers, chefs, performers, actors and more share their cooking stories in Recipe for Disaster, aptly subtitled 40 Superstar Stories of Sustenance and Survival.

Samantha Irby’s essay Rejection Chicken leads and is one of the best. These are some of the reasons why. A sad playlist called “cool funeral.” “This is a meal you are going to eat on the toilet while you weep.” “Now is a good time, while the chicken cooks, to unfollow your ex on social media.” See what I mean? The recipe follows. There are more. Bob Power slowly eats an expensive roast pig at a restaurant as Hillary Clinton loses the 2016 election. Cooking beans a certain way reminds Liz Lambert of home. As a bonus, Alice Waters shares her Chez Panisse vinaigrette recipe. Recipe for Disaster is delightful, fun to read and will make a great gift. 5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley, Chronicle Books and Alison Riley for this ARC.

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Thank you NetGalley and Chronicle Books for the copy of Recipe For Disaster. The writers share a tough time and the food they made that comforted them. I love reading cookbooks and use recipes mainly for inspiration so the addition of touching life stories was a huge plus. I’m not sure I would actually make any of the recipes, but the different recipes and why they were comforting was fascinating to me. I also like how personal some of the stories are and really appreciated the vulnerability of the writers.
I didn't really understand a number of the photos because they weren’t of the dishes and some didn’t even seem to relate to a dish or even cooking. Maybe in a physical book they wouldn’t seem so jarring, but in an ebook some of them were distracting.
This is a book I would buy for a friend going through a hard time to remind them they are not alone.

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Recipe for Disaster by Alison Riley is a book of varying essays, short stories, and recipes from celebrities and prominent people. I opened the book and found myself unable to stop reading it - Samantha Irby’s opener was so compelling I simply had to keep going! Overall, so enjoyable and interesting - the style changed with each entry so it kept it very quick and fun.

My one comment is the photography really didn’t seem to match the content - it felt gimmicky and random when the essays felt so honest. Don’t let that deter you though, it’s a special collection!

Thank you to Netgalley and Chronicle Books for the ARC - Recipe for Disaster is out 3/14/23.

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I loved this book. A wonderful read from writers and chefs and musicians and artists of all kinds, all about the foods that served them solace during times of heartache, stress, worry or sadness. A great book to curl up with! It’ll make you want to roast a chicken and simmer a pot of beans!

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I enjoyed some of the stories and just a couple of the recipes. Most are not something I would ever make. I liked that there was some artful photography as well. Food is such an important aspect for most of us, so this book makes sense. A lot of times, gathering with family involves food. Food is so comforting, so to pair stories of upsetting times with food and recipes, just makes sense. It's a quick read and good for people who like to cook. There are all varieties of recipes in this book.

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Thank you NetGalley and Chronicle Books for the advance copy of Recipe For Disaster in return for my honest review.

This was a fun and interesting read! Very different food/cooking subject matter for a book, Famous and not-so-famous people write of a struggle they had and how specific foods and/or recipes were a comfort to them. The recipes in the book are not necessarily recipes that I would use---but they are interesting and a reminder to yourself of the foods/recipes that comfort you.

The food photography is beautiful---but a bit confusing as most of the food-related pictures have nothing to do with the recipes that are provided in the book.

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A very unique cookbook that features a collection of stories from the heart with a recipe to go with the story. This is a cookbook about finding your own special comfort food when times are dark. I thank Netgalley and Chronicle Books for the opportunity to read and review this special cookbook.

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What a delightful collection of essays, photographs, and recipes describing the impact of food.

This is the perfect book to thumb around when you want to read something touching but not too heavy.

Like a shared bowl of warm soup, this heartwarming collection keeps the reader company.

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Food is something that is part of a lot of my memories growing up and still to this day. I am serious, every Christmas we have challah bread French toast and it is perfect. Memories are around food from the good times and the bad times. This book is filled with those stories from people of all different walks of life. There are stories of hope and stories of times of sadness but all are centered around food and some of these recipes look so damn good. I will for sure be cooking some.

Thank you to Alison Riley, Chronicle Books and Netgalley for my advanced digital copy. All thoughts are my own.

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3.5 stars. What an interesting premise: a collection of recipes, each coupled with an essay which reflects the import and meaning of the recipe and helps detail a certain event or time period in the author’s life. These essays employed a wide variety of writing styles, were written by a diverse group of people and were cleverly assembled. Although I most likely won’t make any of the recipes included here, I definitely enjoyed this read. (The photography was a bit strange, however, and definitely not the type of food photos generally found in recipe books.)

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A variety of short stories from all sorts of people telling about the foods that helped them when they went through something bad - from 1950's segregation to the 2020 pandemic, and everything in between - job losses, watching a friend die from AIDs in the 1980's, being in NYC on 9/11, divorce, depression, the 2016 election and more - here we get the recipes for that perfect sandwich, soup, bread, cake or taco that helps people get through the bad times. Raw and honest but also with a sense of humor and hope, its a powerful collection, if all over the place in style, format and tone.

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I really enjoyed reading this book. Parts of the book reminded me of real life, which I can relate! Five stars from me. Enjoyable read!

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Enjoyed from beginning to end if your a foodie grab this book.Full of essays photos stories related to food and the place food plays in our lives,Honest open so many stories raw real open.#netgalley #chroniclebooks

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Even though the reason the recipes were included were for low moments in life, this book is such a love story. A few contributors weren't all that interesting, but for the most part these were great reads and interesting recipes.

Thank you go NetGalley for the ARC for an honest review.

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Recipe for Disaster is a unique blend of memoir and cookbook. Alison Riley has pulled together stories and recipes from 40 different people. Some you will have heard of; some you may not know about. They all talk about a low point in their life or a particularly memorable moment and a food that they associate with it. Some stories are funny; some are sad. I gleaned some wonderful-sounding recipes and a few food tips (such as: make a big batch of softrito and freeze it in ice cube trays - something I used to do when I bothered to make my own pesto sauce).

In the end, I was left wanting more, so that’s probably the reason I’ve given it 3 stars instead of 4.

Thank you to NetGalley and Chronicle Books for the opportunity to read an advance readers copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

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So when I saw who was included in this book, I knew I had to check it out. I love Samantha Irby, Chelsea Peretti, Bowen Yang and Alice Waters! There were also some great stories and recipes from people I wasn't as familiar with. Some of the photos were a little interesting, I get the intent to show messiness or what the story is about though. I also wish every story had a recipe! Ultimately it was a fun little book where I found some recipes I want to try. I received an advance review copy for free and I'm leaving this review voluntarily.

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It reads like a celebrity food blog. There are short essays of how food offered comfort in their darkest moments. Some are followed by recipes. The photography is bright and adds to the story abstractly unlike traditional food photography.

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This Is SO Me:

‘While I am quite fluent in disasters when it comes to cooking, I am a person who needs a recipe. I do not possess the ability to throw things together to make a magical meal. Many of my friends and family members are alchemists of that kind; combining disparate ingredients from various cabinets in a way they just have a hunch might be complimentary.’

‘I have none of that.’

RECIPE FOR DISASTER – Forty Superstar Stories Of Sustenance And Survival – by Alison Riley

I don’t highlight all forty stories in this review, but I do touch on the majority of them and list the rest at the end.

First Up:

‘Rejection Chicken’ - by Samantha Irby

‘First things first, you gotta get dumped. Everybody gets dumped! I have been broken up with dozens of times, mostly for reasons that I refuse to believe are my fault, and every single time the feeling I get afterward isn’t sadness or despair or unrequited longing . . . it’s hunger.’

I Love This, From The List Of Ingredients:

‘Pepper and the dehydrated salt from your tears.’

‘In Bed with No Fever’ – by Sarah Silverman – Very Relatable! They’re My Favorites Too.

‘Under the Sea’ – by Hannah Black and Carla Perez-Gallardo – Probably not a recipe I would partake in, but the shroom story was tripping! ;) I love calamari—hard pass on squid ink, though.

‘Seasoned, Not Sauced’ – by Bowen Yang – Awwwee, I love this one!

‘Oddball’ – by Michael W. Twitter – My Heart!

‘Without a Gathering, a Good Salad’ – by Alice Waters – Very Relatable!

‘A good salad will buoy my spirits. A good salad—I now realize—will help see me through calamity.’

‘This is a recipe for our classic Chez Panisse vinaigrette. It is the sauce I make most often, and if it’s made out of good olive oil and good wine vinegar, it’s the best salad dressing I can imagine.’

‘The Best of the Worst’ – by Laurie Woolever – My Heart, I have no words.

‘Portrait of a Single Father’ – by Cey Adams – Awwwweee. Warm comfort foods are the best!

‘Pesto to Pass Time’ - by Chelsea Peretti – I have never been a huge fan of Pesto, but this recipe sounds delicious! As a fellow Californian, I love Peretti’s ‘California-style improvisation.’

‘A Balm Then, a Balm Now’ – by Tien Nguyen - I have never tried Trú’ng Flat, but it sounds delicious. My only concern is the fish sauce with my high blood pressure; do they make a low-sodium version?

‘Forget All Your Troubles’ – by Joan As Police Woman – Roasted Japanese Sweet Potato—Yes, Please! I promise to eat the skin! :)

‘A Mess for a Moment’ – by Hassan Pierre – Mmmmm, Yummy Comfort Food!

‘Coasting in on an Empty Tank’ – by Nicholas Galanin – Fruit Gelatin Cups—Yum! A homemade recipe that’s perfect for a road trip.

‘To Accompany Pig’ – by Bob Power – Bob’s Roasted Cauliflower Side Dish – Roasted or Grilled Veggies Are My Favorite!

Power, Referring To 2016:

‘[M]ore of a creeping depression than a sudden jolt of bad news; a slow leak from a toilet that, at first, you want to ignore ….’

Oh, I am right there with you on that one, Powers! *fist bump*

‘The Art of Giving’ - by Money Mark - Guacamole with Pomegranate and Cotijo Cheese
Cotijo Cheese is salty, but I can make this work.

‘How to Treat Yourself’ – by Kia Cooks – Very Relatable!

‘I was trying to contain myself with surface-level affirmations so that I would not burst apart at the seams, only to realize I was trying to prevent a breakdown that I was already in the middle of having.’

‘A Ritual of Hope’ - by Simon Doonan – My Heart! Macro Miso Soup sounds delicious. I have never tried Wakame before.

‘Beans for All Time’ - by Liz Lambert –

‘Pinto beans. A heavy-bottomed pot of beans, simmering on the stove in a crowded kitchen, murmurs and laughter, glasses clinking. In a lonely kitchen, a meditation.’

Two of my favorite comfort foods from my childhood would have to be Mom’s homemade kidney Chili and Dad's pinto beans with ham hock—Yum!

‘Crispy, Hot, Salty Potatoes’ – by Justin Vivian Bond

‘My mom didn’t really like cooking too much. But one thing she did love making was crispy fried potatoes.’

‘For the Record’ – by Meshell Ndegeocello – My Heart!

‘Maybe I wasn’t ever going to succeed at being the most marketable and maybe it would cost me fame and fortune, but I would make what I wanted to make.’

‘A Soft Spot’ – by Alex Wagner – ‘I had a soft spot for Italian-style tuna salad….’

‘I remember the feeling of helplessness and vulnerability that day, but also how hard it was to grapple with the enormity of this hell, to process what was unfolding.’

My Heart!

‘Amidst a City Torn Apart’ – by Ulla Johnson

‘She lived in an apartment that had once felt grand to me, with its proper dining room, fine crystal, and moldings. But the heart of the home had always been Lela’s kitchen in the back with a small table featuring a shiny, patterned vinyl tablecloth where she would serve me and my mom and cousins the most delicious of meals—a combination of Austro-Hungarian haute cuisine and Bosnian comfort foods.’

For Dessert – Šnenokle – Yum! This dessert sounds good and simple to make; however, my ability to beat egg whites into meringue, creating essential peaks, is hit-and-miss on a good day. : /

‘When the Rims Went Down’ – by Bobbito García, aka Kool Bob Love

‘Alison Riley: Do you cook?’

‘Bobbito García: I do cook. I cook, but if you took all the cooking I have done in my life—my whole life—it would not equal the amount of cooking I did in 2020.’

‘But the dishes, the dishes, the f*ckin dishes.’

Me: Yep, Same!

The vegan pizza with a sweet potato wrap instead of dough sounds good! Referring to the quote I used at the beginning of this review, Garcia, I need measurements! :) Please and Thank You.

‘The Simplicity of Congee’ – by LinYee Yuan – My Heart!

‘My favorite version, made with chicken stock or the leftover chicken bones from a roast, would be a fitting tribute to my poultry-loving cat.’

Chicken Congee for Oski sounds pretty easy to make as a nice warm comfort food.

‘Indestructible Pea Soup’ – by Brian Lehrer

That is quite the name for one of my favorite soups!

‘I tend to eat and cook very simply and am not the person to turn to for recipes, believe me. In fact, I recommend that you skip this page and go on to the next person.’


‘A G&T for the Down & Out’ – by Gabrielle Hamilton – Gin and Tonic

‘If you bring the drink to your lips for a first sip and notice that in your distracted despondency you forgot to peel off the little barcode sticker on the hunk of lime now floating in the ice, consider it extra good luck, as I do.’

‘If Martha Stewart Only Knew!’ – by Richard Christiansen

‘Suddenly, I got a message that Martha Stewart would be coming over for dinner.
We pulled the lines in and scrambled to get back to land. The house was a disaster….’

Simple Roasted Striped Bass – An easy-to-make dish that sounds really good!

‘Scared & Horny Sandwich’ – by Fran Tirado – You can’t help but laugh when reading the name of this next recipe. Color Me Intrigued!

‘Coming from a Chicana-Boricua diaspora, you’d think my parents would’ve passed more of our Latinx culinary tradition down to me. Yet, all I really got was this sandwich “recipe.”’

Rotisserie Chicken Sandwich – This recipe has a new food I tried for the first time last year—Goat Cheese.

Side Note: sliced roasted beets with mustard and goat cheese sprinkled on top is the perfect blend of flavors.

‘Security Pizza’ – by Becca Blackwell

‘I had conflicting systems running inside of me. I felt more masculine, but I never felt like a man. All of which is probably why I never felt like I fit in.’

This recipe is a healthy version of pizza using homemade pizza dough, poor man’s pesto, and sliced cooked Brussel sprouts with a little Parmigiana.

Now, I admit I am not a huge fan of Brussel, however, I would give this blend of flavors a try.

The remaining stories in this book are by:

‘Staples’ - by Rachel McKibbens – Spicy Pinto Beans
‘Mother of Invention’ – by Jacqueline Woodson – Sofrito/Chicken Stew
‘Zigni to Warm My Heart’ – by Raul Lopez – Zigni
‘Joy and Relief’ – by Alba Clemente – Pasta alla Puttanesca
‘A Dish to Hold the Love’ – by Damani Baker – Aunt Shirley’s Red Velvet Cake
‘Spread Peanut Butter, Not Pain’ – by Ron Finley – Grilled Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam Sandwich
‘My Favorite, Then and Now’ – by Thundercat
‘Ceviche on the Stoop’ – by Angelo Baque
‘An Overflow of Love and Plumbing’ – by Andrew Tarlow – Coq au Vin
‘Eighth Grade Memory Dance’ – by Kyle Abraham
‘De-Humiliating Muffins’ – by Emily King – Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins

Thank You, NetGalley and Chronicle Books, for providing me with an eARC of RECIPE FOR DISASTER at the request of an honest review.

Scheduled For Release, Though Subject To Change – March 14, 2023

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Recipe for Disaster by Alison Riley combined several things I love into one book - heartfelt stories of reflection, food and recipes, known personalities in the writing and food landscape, and interesting visual images. Food and meals often play a large part in how and why we remember an event. The way we celebrate with special recipes or meals seems to be a regular thing to read about, but I really enjoyed the 'twist' this book provided in a focus on the food that brought comfort in a difficult time or how heartbreak brought forth a now-beloved meal. This book might not be for everyone, but it was for me in the Venn diagram of my interests.

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An interesting book, there are 27 recipes, and 27 stories of distaster- personal, emotion, career, romatic and more. It's all covered here with colored photographic graphics nad pictures of the food. The recipes range from simple, made with pantry items, to more complex with ethnic based ingredients. This might be a cookbook to add to a gift basket for a friend/family member going through rough times, to help cheer them, that you are there for them.

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Recipe for Disaster, stories collected by Alison Riley, is a touching collection of essays that highlight the ways in which food (cooking, buying, serving, or eating) can console us in difficult times. Along with these essays are some recipes.

This is less a "cookbook" than it is a collection of memories with some recipes attached. If you are more concerned with the how and why we eat, and with whatever each of these people have been through that food helped them with, you will enjoy this book and probably recognize some of their stories as being similar to your own. If you came to a book about food and difficult times only for recipes and not for the people, then you might be disappointed. You may also have not read the book description very well, since this is exactly what I expected based on the description.

A couple of the essays gave me a chuckle (c'mon, we're talking about Irby and Silverman to open the book) while others brought tears to my eyes. I even tried a couple of the recipes simply because they were simple and things I tend to buy rather than make (pesto and vinaigrette). I intend to try a couple more, but for me the recipes themselves were secondary, this book is about our shared humanity and how for many of us food serves as an emotional grounding point.

Highly recommended for those who like to read about food and the human condition. If you're looking for a cookbook or book of recipes and don't care about the people, well, this might not be for you.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

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This short collection of essays was a fun read! Some of your favorite chefs share their recipes (I am hoping to try a few) that they have turned to heal them in disaster. In love, life, or whatever calamity we are facing, there’s always that one recipe that comforts us. I enjoyed the peek into their lives’!

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