• West Cork Literary Festival 2021

A Sampling of Life, One Taste at a Time by Martha Wallace

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Non Fiction

By Jennifer Russon

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A Sampling of Life, One Taste at a Time takes readers on an epicurean adventure to the Midwest, Deep South, Spain, Ghana and country kitchens that smell like baking bread.

Martha Wallace has written her life story with insight, wit, common sense, and mouth-watering descriptions.

Through this talented poet’s eyes, you’ll join her big and boisterous family for the holidays – tasting delicious foods prepared by aunts, uncles, cousins and grandmothers that nourish the body and soul.

You’ll also find Martha’s easy recipes to recreate those dishes.

Such as:
Pig Pickin’ Cake
Jazzy’s Key Lime Cake
Myesha’s Grape Salad
Lucky’s Zucchini Bread
Auntie Carolyn’s Yeast Rolls
Fast and Fabulous Lasagna
Martha’s Mmmmm Macaroni and Cheese
Martha’s Savory Horseradish-Crusted Rib Roast
Kevin’s Red Hot Sticky Wings
Brown Sugar Garlic Chicken Breasts

“Eating together was face to face, family time. Through my family’s nurturing and cooking, they shared with us children what they could not always say aloud,” said Martha.

As sweet as her recipes are, Martha’s life has not always been a cakewalk, and her memoir is interwoven with painful and poignant moments, like her mother’s death and disappearance of her beloved brother Tone Tone, who she’s still searching for in between bites, sips and chapters.

Martha describes Midwestern favorites, like ‘huge stacked corned beef sandwiches with deli pickles reeking of garlic, washed down by ice cold beer.’

She also takes readers back in a time machine to make Chow-Chow with her grandmother.

“Granny guarded that secret recipe. As much as I asked for it, she told me I wouldn’t be able to make it like her and to just gather the vegetables and all for her to make it and leave the kitchen. She said the young folks didn’t want to take the time to make it the right way.”

The story and recipes meander through the past and present, some of it in the Spanish cities of Madrid and Oviedo, where Martha lived with a host family and worked on her memoirs for four delicious weeks.

“I rode on a crazy fast train, able to enjoy the picturesque views. During my stay I resided with a host family and had the opportunity to visit markets, museums, cathedrals, and other cities in close proximity.”

It was during that trip, Martha committed to writing her book. She studied bestsellers like Laurie Colvin’s Home Cooking, Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl, A Homemade Life by the delightful Molly Wizenburg and If I Can Cook, You Know God Can by Ntozake Shange

She said these books made her ravenous; hungry for cheeses, wines and other special dishes. At times she had a glass of sweet red wine or muscadine wine while reading, or fruit filled sangria with a side of cheese and crackers.

“Usually when someone shares a recipe with you they also share a story connected with it. ‘Food is not just Food’, as a great philosopher once said. Anyway…are you hungry yet?”

(c) Jennifer Russon

Jennifer Russon is editor-in-chief at the new imprint Swallow Publishing, as well as a novelist and reporter.

Order your copy of A Sampling of Life, One Taste at a Time online here.

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