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My Berlin Kitchen

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Weiss's peripatetic childhood commuting between her two loving parents left her feeling like a "strange little hybrid of a person, easily adaptable, fluent in many languages, an outsider everywhere." After college in Boston and a year in Paris, she settled in New York City for 10 years, where she eventually landed her dream job as a cookbook editor and became engaged to her easygoing boyfriend, "the blog's hungry mascot." Belatedly she discovered he was travel-averse. Increasingly uneasy about the life she was falling into, she ultimately made the hard decision to break off the relationship. Soon afterward, she decided to move back to Germany – which felt more like home than anywhere else – and to an earlier boyfriend.  

Although her tale has a happy ending, there's a lot of breast-beating over her Big Decision, and some between-the-lines resentment, too, at the transcontinental bind her parents' divorce put her in.  Her prose is sprinkled with conversational "bear with me"s and "trust me"s and sappy confidences ("I had listened to my intuition. I had saved my own life")­ – all of which play better on blogs than in books. Yet there's also an endearing earnestness to her story.

But what really separates "My Berlin Kitchen" from the pack of food memoirs is its celebration of German cuisine. As Weiss notes, "Germany, with its overcast skies and its inescapable history, often gets the short end of the stick when it comes to capturing the imagination of food lovers and romantics. There's not much use in competing with sleepy Provençal towns and picturesque Italian villages."

Although she does include recipes for such German classics as Pickled Herring Salad with Potatoes and Beets, and Pea Soup made with potatoes and wieners, Weiss makes a strong case for German cooking being about more than just sausages and potatoes. Her recipes for seasonal specialties featuring wild-harvested fruit and vegetables include elderflower syrup, white asparagus salad, and Pflaumenkuchen – a yeasted plum cake.  While perhaps unlikely to make American readers rush to their kitchens (or to the Internet to source the hard-to-find ingredients), they're certainly intriguing. Her evocation of elaborate German Christmas celebrations, complete with spicy honey cookies and roasted goose that's "not for the weak or for the faint of heart," is particularly delectable.

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