by Julia Pandl
For Julia Pandl, the rite of passage into young-adulthood included mandatory service at her family's restaurant, where she watched as her father - who was also the chef - ruled with the strictness of a drill sergeant. At age twelve, Julie was initiated into the rite of the Sunday brunch, a weekly madhouse at her father's Milwaukee-based restaurant, where she and her eight older siblings before her did service in a situation of controlled chaos, learning the ropes of the family business and, more important, learning life lessons that would shape them for all the years to come. In her wry memoir, she looks back on those formative years, a time not just of growing up but, ultimately, of becoming a source of strength and support as the world her father knew began to change into a tougher, less welcoming place. Part coming-of-age story a la The Tender Bar, part window into the mysteries of the restaurant business a la Kitchen Confidential, Julie Pandl provides tender wisdom about the bonds between fathers and daughters and about the simple pleasures that lie in the daily ritual of breaking bread. This honest and exuberant memoir marks the debut of a writer who discovers that humor exists in even the smallest details of our lives and that the biggest moments we ever experience can happen behind the pancake station at the Sunday brunch.(Overview and book cover from Goodreads)
Part I of this book was hysterical. I mean laugh out loud, slap your leg, tears rolling down your face funny. Ms. Pandl has an ability to take normal, everyday activities and make them very entertaining. As the youngest of nine, she had lots of material to work with.
Part II was a 180 degree turn around. While there was still some humor, this part related to her family as her parents got older. She talks about the effects that diabetes had on her Mom. She writes about her relationship with her Dad as she became an adult herself.
After the extreme humor in Part I, I initially struggled with the more serious nature of Part II. I wasn’t sure I liked this change of pace. But by the time I finished the book, I had changed my mind. It’s easy to like a humorous story, but the story of aging parents - not so easy. Ms. Pandl handles this with poignancy and grace.
Many thanks to Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill and Netgalley for allowing me to read this ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
Publish date: November 13, 2012.