Issue #151: The Joy of Cooking

I’ve been a fan of Elissa Schappell ever since I read her wonderful novel in stories, Use Me (a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award). This September, Elissa will be publishing a new collection of interconnected tales, Blueprints for Building Better Girls , and you—lucky One Story readers—are getting a sneak peek. Our new issue, “The Joy of Cooking,” follows the passing of a family recipe (of sorts) from a mother to her anorexic daughter. I was drawn to this story initially by its containment—the entire piece takes place over a telephone conversation. But as I kept reading, I found layer after layer of meaning and heartache. Elissa puts a whole new twist on a closely examined issue: women’s relationship with food, and how it can disrupt not only our health and self-esteem, but our family life and chances at love. Ultimately, this is a story of letting go, of saying goodbye. But it is also one of hope—the kind of hope every parent has, when seeing their children leave the nest for the first time: that they will be safe, and that they will find a way to fly on their own. Be sure to read Elissa’s Q&A with us about how she wrote “The Joy of Cooking.” And then pre-order your copy of Blueprints for Building Better Girls!

4 thoughts on “Issue #151: The Joy of Cooking

  1. I read and enjoyed the interview with the author. She mentioned that the mother loves her younger daughter but if oblivious to her acting out sexually. I reread the story, looking for indications of this, but I couldn’t find it. Did I miss it?

    A good story.

  2. To the previous commenter, I think the sentence in the interview — “The mother has enabled her daughter, sacrificed her chances to form intimate relationships with men, not only to her own detriment, but at the expense of a younger daughter, who she loves, but is oblivious to her needs, to the fact she’s acting out sexually.” — actually refers to the younger daughter, Paige, in regards to the “acting out” part, as it says “younger daughter”.

    I don’t recall if that was explicitly (or implicitly) conveyed in the story or if this aspect is explored in Blueprints for Building Better Girls.

    Overall a very strong story that resonates on several levels emotionally! I was distracted somewhat by the use of numbers to fill in the back-story, as I felt it was somewhat of a random device, employed after Emily tells her mother she was always good with numbers.

  3. I enjoyed this story, thank you. I’ve liked many stories of this author, ever since first discovering her via a piece titled “Comet” in Witness. I think there should have been a circling back in the end of “…Cooking” re: the mother’s obligation to wherever she was supposed to be going. She had one foot out the door at the beginning of the story, yet in the middle and end of the piece, this place she needed to go to was never mentioned again. I realize she had been side-tracked by the daughter’s call, but this loose end bothered me. Nonetheless, wonderful story; thank you for publishing it.

  4. Once I started reading the story, I wanted to keep reading to see how it would end. Yet, at the same time, I was so annoyed by Emily’s behavior that I couldn’t see the humor in it, which I believe might have been the intention. I was equally annoyed by the weakness in the mother and how she let Emily walk all over her. I believe the characters were intentionally portrayed as two-dimensional caricatures, but in my case, this is the reason that I couldn’t sympathize with either one of them or feel the poignancy of the situation.

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