Life from Scratch by Sasha Martin, review by Melissa Fox
I love foody books. You know: those books where the writing makes the food leap off the page, where you can just smell it cooking and practically taste it? When it's done well, it is just heaven.
Which makes Life from Scratch a little slice of heaven.
The author, Sasha Martin, had a rough upbringing. When she was young, Sasha didn't know how hard she and her brother Michael's life was. Her mother raised them by herself, and focused on the good: food, togetherness. That is, until the state got involved. sending Michael and Sasha into the foster system, which turned out to be, in the late-80s, a horrible place. Her mother fought the system, but eventually was declared unfit to raise her children. So she turned over guardianship to some old friends.
You might be wondering what all this has to do with food? The one thing that kept Sasha going throughout her life was a love of food and cooking. Her mother is Italian and Hungarian and she believed in the power of community coming together to eat, so very early on, Sasha helped out in the kitchen, developing a love of creating good things to eat.
Unfortunately, the happily-ever-after with the friends didn't come. Sasha desperately missed her mother. Her brother committed suicide. And both of those propelled Sasha into a life of drinking and drugs and avoidance. So, when she finally landed on her feet, in her late-20s, in Oklahoma, Sasha decides that what she needs to do to find herself is to cook her way around the world. (Literally: she starts at Afghanistan and cooks a meal, one per week, through every single country on the planet.)
Sasha's a compelling writer, telling her hard story with honesty, love, and understanding. She was angry at her mother for years, but somehow forged a new relationship with her. And I loved how this city girl found solace in a smaller community, finding the interesting and unique things about Tulsa. But the best thing, hands down, about this was the food. Sasha has a way of making the food leap off the page, of capturing not only the flavor of familiar dishes, but also of the exotic ones she made from around the world.
It's a delightful book, one that I'm sure will stay with me for a long, long time.