October Book Review: Apron Anxiety By Alyssa Shelasky


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Apron Anxiety was a messy kismet read. A book find that was perfectly timed to provide a good measure of value within my own life, but with some issues. Essentially, this book was about a woman finding herself and her love for the kitchen. The book was cleverly written: witty, racy when necessary and juxtaposed by recipes. As someone who has a deep appreciation of New York City, the book’s setting was perfect.

The author, Alyssa Shelasky, who is New York Magazine’s Grub Street editor, was descriptive when necessary. And certainly, it was not difficult to root for her. What I liked best about Shelasky was her ability to not sugar coat her crazy tendencies. She proudly owned them – that in itself is something quite lovable. However, her appeal for empathy was something of a turn-off. In all honesty, sometimes I didn’t like her. I found her dramatic, self-centered, and overly confident, but I appreciate her passion for life and of course her work ethic.

The narrative follows the ebbs and flows of Shelasky’s good and bad days amidst friends, family, work, food, and love interests. Most of the book covers her relationship with a famous Top Chef whose identity she keeps secret and refers to as Chef. Like many readers I did a search on who Chef really was and it resulted in – Spike Mendelson. He is fine and all, especially since I remember he recently appeared on Top Chef Masters and was eliminated the very first episode. However, as I read Apron Anxiety, I was hoping it was dreamy, Sam Talbot from Season 2 of Top Chef, who is the essence of tall, dark, handsome, and talented. Swoon!

While I finished this book in a few hours, this was not a completely easy breezy read. Instead, there were some insightful lessons to be learned:

  1. Inspiration and passion can be found in the most interesting of places.

  2. You can become accomplished at something you once disliked or have no interest in…yet.

  3. Clever prose and interesting stories can shape and fuel life, sometimes simply with a necessity like food.

  4. Do not consume yourself with the person you are dating or partnered with in life. Meaning, do not hold one person accountable for making you and your life happy. It causes stress and ultimately, that job is yours.

This last lesson is what made me scratch my head about Shelasky. Prior to meeting Chef, she had a prolific career at People Magazine in New York and LA. Then after a few weeks, she ups and quits everything to move to Washington DC, thinking that love will make everything work. Instead, she cannot find a groove and becomes resentful, crazy, and depressed over Chef’s long hours. Rather than getting a job, finding friends, joining activities, or doing volunteer work, she texts him all day long and complains that he’s busy and she’s not.

Lonely, bored, and determined to impress her new man, Shelasky teaches herself to cook a few simple dishes. What started with a hunger for Chef quickly becomes a love affair with food, which ultimately endures the relationship. Essentially, cooking became her therapy

Like many food fictions, the dishes mentioned within the chapter vignettes make an appearance as full recipes at the end of the respective chapter. While some of the 30+ recipes seemed interesting, close to ninety-five percent were from other cookbooks and websites. For me, the lack of originality in her recipe repertoire was disappointing. On the upside, nothing Shelasky creates is too complicated, too staged, or set in stone.

A notable recipe is the salad dressing she makes countless times throughout the book and is her grandmother’s recipe. If you can guess it, I will be recreating it, but morphing it for Indian Influence. Overall, Apron Anxiety was an interesting read that kept me turning the pages and wanting to know what would happen next. Read it!

This book review also appears on Kitchen Reader’s October Roundup.

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  1. Posted Friday November 8, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    This is a very nice review. I especially like the lessons learned list. Looking forward to your next books.

  2. Posted Monday November 4, 2013 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    I’m glad you liked it. I agree that Shelasky’s story was in some ways a cautionary tale about drawing all your identity from someone else. And I thought her writing about cooking and love, especially near the end of the book, was eloquent and thought-provoking. Welcome to the Kitchen Reader!

    • iiadmin
      Posted Monday November 4, 2013 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Sarah. So excited to be part of a book club. I agree with you, as Shelasky’s kitchen confidence increased, her prose also developed.

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