By Nancy Spiller
Counterpoint, $26.00, 160 pages
If you are interested in personal memoirs, Compromise Cake is likely to be an absorbing reading for you. Author Nancy Spiller is a food writer and her writing is superb, easy to read and very enjoyable. However, you must also enjoy reading about foods and cooking as this is a major focus of the book through her mother’s recipe box. Her primary focus, however, is her growing up through her childhood but also her current life with particular emphasis on her and her mother’s relationship while she was still alive. The recipes are of secondary importance – this was not meant to be a cookbook.
“In the time we spent together my mother taught me a grounding, fundamental knowledge that I could make things happen.”
Each chapter’s focal point is one of the recipes in the box (including reproducing it with food spills and notes) and spinning her stories around the theme. The recipes are brief, written in her mother’s (or other contributors’) shorthand with very little or no instructions and odd ingredients like “donut shaped oat cereal,” and “crisp rice (cereal) squares.” These are the simple recipes of the 1940s and are more like sidebars in the book. The illustrations are simple sketches and the book is a small trade paperback (my copy is an advanced review).
Reviewed by George Erdosh