“Food tells us who we are and who the people we love are,” Jessica Fechtor told me in our
phone interview. And through her cooking, we learn a great deal about Jessica, her near fatal aneurism and her recovery.
It is hard to get through Stir without a tear or two. “To fry an egg is to operate with the perfect faith that you will sit down and eat it. To season it with salt and pepper is a statement that you will do so with with pleasure, according to your taste. When you’re sick and broken and sad and afraid, it feels good to think of a time when you weren’t.”
With poignant style and humor, and with surgeries juxaposed with recipes, Fechtor successfully weaves her illness and cooking. After her anaeurism, stripped of her day-to-day life, unable even to walk or shower without help, Fechtor climbed back by each teaspoonful and recipe until she trusts that her life is here to stay.
“The stories I remembered (about food), the stories I made let me know there was a life beyond the narrow world of recovery. At their heart were the protective powers of kneading, salting, sifting and stirring, because you can’t be dead and do these things….When you’re cooking, you’re alive.”
Stirring cake batter became a belief in her future. Family and friends eating at her table was a celebration by the forkful. Cooking became an extension of Jessica’s identity. “Cooking is a direct route to experience. Food is such a centering and shared thing,” Jessica told me, answering my question about cooking’s role in her life today.
Her new frontier includes cooking with her children. “I am learning about what it
means to pass along a love and respect for food, cooking, baking. My children are
part of my kitchen life,” Jessica said to me. Her girls, Mia and Freddie, have their
own table to set, their own dishes and utensils and even their own bud vase. The
pleasure in cooking and food that brought Jessica back to what she calls her
normalcy is now shared with her children, to pass this legacy of home and table
I asked Jessica to share a recipe with you. She chose a long time favorite,
Marcella's Butter Almond Cake. “This recipe is so simple,” she told me. “It takes a
handful of ingredients and only 15 minutes to make. The cake comes out gorgeous
and looks like it took more time to make. My website sweetamandine is named after that cake.”