In ‘Kitchen Yarns,’ Ann Hood spins savory tales of her life through food

Ann Hood’s “Kitchen Yarns” (W.W. Norton, 229 pp., ★★★½ out of four) arrives just in time to savor in the season when food becomes the expression of family, memories and love.

Proust had his Madeleines. But for Hood, a child of Italian-American immigrants, the evocative flavors of her life include the tomato sauce gravy her grandmother Mama Rose simmered by the vat, the chemical comfort of brownies she and her father baked by the lightbulb of her Easy Bake Oven, and the garlic-studded pork loin that fed her as a single woman, wife and, later, single mom.

As Nora Ephron did in the wonderful “Heartburn,” Hood retells the chapters of her life through culinary memories, ending each chapter with a recipe, sometimes maddeningly vague, as told by a natural cook. As her mom – nicknamed Gogo – says, “There’s no recipe” for her famous meatballs.

Growing up surrounded by a multigenerational family in Rhode Island, Hood fled for the promise of a more sophisticated life in Manhattan. As a TWA stewardess, preparing martinis and beef bourguignon for business class travelers, she began writing short stories that became her first novel.

She fell in love, married and divorced and endured the losses of her brother, her father and, unfathomably, her 5-year-old daughter, Grace. Throughout life’s joys and sorrows, cooking and food sustain, entrance and console Hood when nothing else can.

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