If you don’t know food writer, recipe developer, and owner of Nourish Evolution, a subscription-based real food community and online menu planner, you really should. And here’s the perfect opportunity; she just published a memoir called Nourished: A Memoir of Food, Faith & Enduring Love. I can’t recall recommending a book in this space, but I think as chefs you’ll enjoy and appreciate her journey and certainly be taken by both her writing and her recipes.

Yes, recipes. Nourished, while not a cookbook, ends every chapter with an irresistible recipe–from Crab Ravioli in Saffron Lemon-Butter Sauce and Grilled Pork en Adobada with Cebollitas to a simple Zucchini Frittata and Gnocchi with Mushrooms, Lobster, and Caramelized Corn. What it is is a memoir of a woman who took the long road to find happiness and her place in the world, much of which has revolved around food and cooking. Traveling with her (and there is a lot of travel) through 20 years of her life journey was mouth watering, yes, but also an immersion into a life perhaps more adventurous than any of ours, but filled with the same sorrows and joys, discoveries of the spirit and heart, and ultimately a coming to as much peace and solace as anyone can be rewarded with in a life well lived.

Raised in Connecticut, Huber launches the book in 1991 in Corfu, Greece, where as a college student on break she falls in love with Alexi, whom she describes as a “tall, dark Greek man with mischievous eyes.” Huber digs into Corfu with loving descriptions of the food she discovered–the smokey fish roe dip, luscious lemony scented chicken, and the fluffy mass of boiled potatoes with smashed cloves of garlic and green-yellow olive oil that is skordalia (recipe included). She fully intends to marry Alexi but returns to the States for a cousin’s wedding and to finish school. The ambitious American college student, winning awards for her writing, ultimately breaks off the engagement and so begins a new chapter in her life, what she calls a “voraciousness for experience” that sent her to live in Manhattan–and then to Christianity. Not long after she meets Christopher, who would become the love of her life and partner in her travels and soul searching.

Nourished wends its way through Huber’s adventures and travails. She suffers from unresolved health issues, challenges in her marriage, challenges in the travels she and Christopher (and their Rhodesian Ridgeback Talisker–yeah, there’s that we also have in common) take trying to find their place in the world. It takes them from New York to San Francisco, where she launches her food writing and recipe testing career, to Costa Rica, making the 8,000-mile journey in their “gringo mobile” Rex, their Ford Explorer. They spend time in Italy and ultimately, they make their way to California’s wine country, where they endure a long, torturous process of foreign adoption and then the joys and angst of parenthood.

Throughout Huber’s travels, both geographical and emotional, is always food. She and Christopher cook their way through Anne Willan’s Look and Cook: Asian Cooking. They discover a rich, tangy asado de boda stew in Zacatecas, a dried beef machaca in a Chihuahua truck stop, and in Cuernavaca she learns how to make sautéed zucchini flowers stuffed into poblano chiles that are then wrapped in puff pastry topped by a creamy cilantro sauce and pomegranate seeds.

While many readers may find her struggle with and solace in God and Christianity just as rewarding as her culinary evolution, that part was not as resonant with me since I’m a non-religious Jewish woman. But I could feel her pain and appreciate her quest for answers and hope. She’s that good a writer.

In fact, I loved her vivid descriptions of her cooking experiences. I could see in my mind’s eye what she saw. In Italy, taking a pasta-making lesson, Huber describes her instructor Francesca as “nearly as round as the ball of pasta dough sitting in front of her…” She goes on to describe making pasta sheets:

“She cut the giant ball into several smaller pieces and covered them with a dish towel. She dusted the worktable with the flour as if she were feeding pigeons, and picked up a giant rolling pin longer than a baseball bat. ‘Matarello,’ Francesca said.”

Nourished takes us with Huber over a 20-year span and ultimately it’s a joyful, yes, nourishing ride. Read the memoir for its grace and honest reflections of a life filled with bumps, questions, and ultimately love. Keep the book for the recipes that provide delicious markers for each period of her life.

Frijoles de Lia
from Lia Huber

Frijoles de olla are a traditional dish of brothy beans cooked in an earthenware pot (an olla) that are hearty enough to be a meal in and of themselves. The recipes I followed in Costa Rica—from Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless—followed a simple equation of beans, lard, an onion or garlic, and epazote. I’ve taken the liberty of adding a few more goodies that I’ve appended on over the years. 

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large poblano chiles, seeded and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander 2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons ground ancho chile
11/2 cups dried black beans, rinsed and soaked overnight (or fast  soaked in a pressure cooker)
Sea salt

In a large, heavy  bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium  high heat. Add the onion, poblano chiles, and garlic and sauté for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is golden brown. Add the cumin, coriander, oregano, and ancho chile and sauté for 1 minute, until fra grant. Add the beans, a generous pinch of salt, and 6 cups cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 11/2 to 2 hours, until the beans are tender. Using a potato masher, mash the beans until there’s a mix of whole beans and creamy mashed beans.

Serves 10 to 12


Reprinted from NOURISHED: A Memoir of Food, Faith & Enduring Love (with Recipes) COPYRIGHT © 2017 by Lia Huber. Published by Convergent, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

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Caron Golden

About 

Founder of premier organization of personal chefs inspires students to follow their dreams of culinary entrepreneurship.

Candy Wallace, executive director of the American Personal & Private Chef Association (APPCA), today was recognized by Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies as its 33rd Distinguished Guest Chef.

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