I really didn’t think I’d be able to read all the way through Recipe for Joy: A Stepmom’s Story of Finding Faith, Following Love, and Feeding a Family by Robin Davis (Loyola Press) in time for today’s blog tour. I figured, at best, I’d sit down with the prologue, peruse a few pages, and make a stab at saying something. But this book pulled me in from the very first paragraph and kept me reading long past the time I had allotted myself. In fact, I’m still reading, slowly, happily, hungrily. I’m about three-quarters of the way through, but I don’t want to rush it because there is so much to savor — beautiful writing, a surprising and heartfelt and faith-filled story, recipes, humor, family, motherhood. Everything you could ask for, really.
This is a wonderful book on so many levels. I’m already making a mental list of people I know who would love to read it. Get it for yourself, get it for a friend, get it for a woman you love just in time for Mother’s Day. (With express shipping you can still make it if you order it today.) Recipe for Joy is like sitting down to have a cup of coffee with a good friend. There is comforting, powerful, challenging, joyful sisterhood here.
I was fortunate to be able to ask the author, who’s been a food writer for almost 20 years, a few questions about her book and her life. Here’s how our email conversation played out (and don’t miss the great little book trailer at the end of our Q&A):
NSS: If you had to sum up in just one or two lines what you hope readers take away from your book, what would it be?
Robin: A sense of hope. Life is full of struggles but it’s full of joy, too. We all need to help each other on this journey. We need each other to make it through the dark times and to celebrate life’s high points.
NSS: Having written a book that includes a lot of my own moments of grief, I know how emotional this kind of book project can be. What was the writing of this book like for you? Was it hard to revisit those difficult times? Was it cathartic?
Robin: It was difficult and cathartic. I cried when I wrote about my parents’ deaths and some of the struggles of my childhood, like my mother’s alcoholism. It took me back to those times, forced me to relive the grief. But there was a therapeutic quality to putting it down on paper, too, so all of it didn’t just live in my head and in my heart. And since Recipe For Joy has been published, I’ve heard from others who’ve had similar experiences in loss and grief. It gives me great comfort to think my words might make someone feel less alone. Sometimes I think we believe there’s no one who has been through what we have, but in reality, there’s a whole community of people with similar experiences.
NSS: What I love about this book is the element of surprise — from the personal details about your San Francisco life to the ways you allow yourself to be vulnerable before the reader as you face new and unexpected losses, changes, challenges, joys. I think it gives people hope and reminds them of their blessings, and at the same time it encourages them to be open to the whisper of the Spirit. What would you say to someone facing a difficult situation or tough choice in their life? How can faith and prayer get them to where they need to go?
Robin: In times of great pain and crisis, I think we sometimes feel like we can’t even pray, can’t form the words to ask God for help. When my father died, I could only manage the word “please.” Not even “please help me.” The key, I think, is just opening your heart to God. Don’t turn away, but turn toward him. And look around you, look for the people he’s put in your life to help you. When your own pain inside is too great, look outside yourself. Where can you help someone else? Something as small as giving a stranger a smile or putting an extra dollar in a tip jar can make the other person feel so much better. That will, in turn, make you feel better, even if just a smidge, too.
NSS: How did your step-children contribute to the book? How did they feel about being part of it?
Robin: I had Ben, Molly and Sarah read the proposal before I allowed it to be sent out. I did the same with the first draft. It started great conversations among us about things they remembered differently or even things they didn’t know at all. They have been enormously supportive.
NSS: How did you come up with the idea for structuring the book like a meal, and how did you choose the recipes that end each chapter?
Robin: As a food writer, I relate much of my life to food, so setting this up as a menu was a natural for me. But I also wanted to give the story a celebratory quality, despite the parts about struggle and loss. Food is something everyone relates to on some level — I don’t think it’s an accident that so many stories in the Bible include food.
The recipes are all dishes that my family enjoys. Some, like the baked goat cheese salad, are slightly fancier variations on everyday meals we shared together. Others, like the beef tenderloin, are dishes we enjoyed on holidays or at other family gatherings
NSS: Will you be doing any appearances or signings?
Robin: I’m doing a cooking class/book signing at Dorothy Lane Market in Dayton on June 23 and another at the North Market in Columbus on July 28. I list all of my appearances on my website: robincdavis.com.