Review – Comfort Food For Break-Ups

comfortfoodforbreakupsComfort Food for Breakups: The Memoir of a Hungry Girl
Marusya Bociurkiw
Arsenal Pulp Press

There is a time, immediately after the breakup of a relationship with a serious other when we all seem to require comfort food. Ice cream, cake, mashed potatoes, something in which to drown our sorrows, that reminds us of better, safer times when we were not so vulnerable and hurt.

Comfort food can be anything that reminds us of someone we love, whether it’s the safety of a childhood home, or the memory of a loved one who has passed. Regardless of our culture, food is woven into the fabric of our lives and every dish, every forkful evokes memories.

In Comfort Food For Breakups, Marusya Bociurkiw looks back at the personal highs and lows of her life through the food associated with each event. This collection of short stories and essays, interspersed with recipes, offers a glimpse into the Toronto-based writer and filmmaker’s life via what she ate and with whom.

She recounts the curry she cooked for her homeless brother, the coffee she drank on a visit to Ukraine, a torte brought by her mother on a trip, the rye bread from a Jewish bakery she visits with her father, a former prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. She tells of her various friends and lovers and the food she cooked for them and ate with them, as well as the food she ate to comfort herself when they were gone.

Comfort Food For Breakups is a beautiful collection of food memoirs, each one striking and poignant as they reveal Bociurkiw’s ongoing relationship between food and emotion, particularly love. The author paints a vivid picture of each person, each food, each place, as she describes all of the above with detail and care.

In the piece entitled Radishes and Salt, Bociurkiw remembers her father and how his culinary interests in turn encouraged and provoked her to explore the world of food.

My father died a few years ago. Memory does its slow, necessary work. It is only very recently that I have been able to recall the pleasant memories from childhood, most of them connected to food. The kasha breakfasts my father made most winter mornings when we were kids, that gritty old-world smell wafting through the house. The pleasure of European cheeses and wines he taught me to appreciate when I was older; gewürztraminer, cabernet; havarti, gruyere, gorgonzola. The backroom of that bakery, the crisp astringent smell of Alberta winter transformed into the warm, rounded aromas of Eastern Europe, a portly Ukrainian professor and a bald, elegant Jewish baker nodding to each other over a transaction of knishes and history, a young girl looking on.

For anyone who enjoys reading about food and the relationships people have with and around it, Comfort Food For Breakups is a must-read. It will provoke everyone who peruses its pages not only to look back at their own food-related memories but to think about how life events to come might be experienced differently just by the food on the table.