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This reading group guide for Cooking and Screaming by Adrienne Kaneincludes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
On a beautiful spring day in Berkeley, California, the day she put the finishing touches on her senior thesis, Adrienne Kane’s life changed forever. She suffered an AVM – a sudden, hemorrhagic stroke – that completely paralyzed the right side of her body. It was time for Adrienne to lean on her loved ones: her tireless family, faithful friends, and boyfriend, Brian.
During her painful recovery, Adrienne found solace and independence in the kitchen. It was the only place she didn’t feel judged, as she slowly taught herself to chop, stir, and grate with her left hand. When Adrienne served a simple frittata or a decadent roast duck, she lost her self-consciousness: hungry guests looked at her delicious creations, not at her disability. Cooking was Adrienne’s key to independence, as her sudden tragedy evolved into a supportive marriage, a successful catering business, and a buzzworthy food blog.
But Adrienne’s life continued to change: she and Brian moved to New York City, far away from the support network – and bountiful produce markets! – she knew and loved in Berkeley. And slowly, Adrienne came to realize that her dream of writing a cookbook had to incorporate the stories behind the recipes – how she became such a unique, accomplished cook. Cooking and Screaming shares Adrienne’s signature dishes, from nourishing pastas to decadent desserts, and also shares a recipe for courage and creativity, in the kitchen and in life.
Questions for Discussion
1. Consider the format of Cooking and Screaming. Each chapter begins with one of Adrienne’s original recipes. What do Adrienne’s food stories – how she developed, served, and refined each recipe – tell us about her life? How do they enhance and compliment her recipes?
2. Discuss the opening scene of Cooking and Screaming, which describes the day that Adrienne suffered an AVM. How does she set the scene for that fateful day?
3. Adrienne realized while cooking at the rehab facility in Vallejo, “Being in the kitchen – the sights and smells, the smear of crimson tomato sauce on my borrowed apron – felt a little bit like being at home.” (37) Why does Adrienne associate cooking with home? What childhood memories of the kitchen carried over into Adrienne’s recovery?
4. Adrienne writes about Brian, “I wanted him to stay for the right reasons and to know that I understood if for some reason he couldn’t. But he stuck around for good. And he gained a wife out of the deal.” (56) What would have been the “wrong reasons” for Brian to stay with Adrienne after her AVM? What seem to be the “right reasons” why he stayed?
5. Discuss the relationship Adrienne has with her father. Did the tragedy they have in common – their history of strokes – bring them closer together? Why or why not? How does Adrienne react when her father talks about her AVM, and why? 6. The first Thanksgiving after Adrienne’s AVM is a turning point in the book. What did Adrienne learn about herself and her recovery as she labored over a side dish of Brussels sprouts?
7. Before the AVM, “I always imagined that I would become a teacher.” (91) What teaching skills has Adrienne brought to her current career as a food writer? What do teaching and recipe-writing have in common? How do they differ?
8. There were many small steps in Adrienne’s road to becoming a writer. Who were the key supporters who encouraged Adrienne not just to cook, but to write about food? What inspired her to switch from writing a cookbook to writing her life story?
9. The first recipe that Adrienne ever wrote was for rice pilaf. How is this an appropriate start for Adrienne’s collection of recipes? What does rice pilaf mean to her?
10. “I would hardly be the next spokeswoman for the disabilities movement,” Adrienne writes. (230) What seems to be Adrienne’s philosophy about her disability?
11. Cooking and Screaming ends soon after Brian and Adrienne settle in New York. What advantages did New York have over Berkeley for Adrienne? In what ways did Berkeley suit her better?
12. Adrienne realized, “writing a memoir gave me nowhere to hide; it forced me to own up to my life.” (268) How was Adrienne able to “hide” as a cookbook writer and a food blogger? How has she managed to “own up” to her past and present?
13. Describe Adrienne’s relationship with her mother. How does it change over the course of the memoir? Discuss the book’s closing line, which is about their relationship: “We rarely would talk about my therapy, and that turned out to be the best therapy of all.” (269)
14. What would you call Cooking and Screaming, if a friend asked you about it: a memoir, a cookbook, a love story, or a family story? How do these different stories fit together as a whole?
15. What do you think of the title Cooking and Screaming? What kind of “screaming” has Adrienne done in this book? Which situations would have had you screaming, if you were in Adrienne’s place?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Visit Adrienne Kane’s blog, www.nosheteria.com, for even more delightful recipes, along with gorgeous photographs of her successes in the kitchen. Print out a few recipes to try!
2. Make a cookbook with your book club! Have each member of your book club bring in a favorite recipe, and create a free online cookbook out of your pooled recipes here: http://www.desktopcookbook.com/.
3. Take your book club to your local farmer’s market, ethnic market, or produce market. Check out the best, freshest, most interesting ingredients in your area, and brainstorm a seasonal snack that your book club can whip up together in the kitchen!
4. Adrienne learns a lot about dealing with a disability over a Scrabble game with her friend David. Challenge your book club to a game of Scrabble! Bring a board to your book club meeting, or play online at http://word-games.pogo.com/games/scrabble?guest_country=US.
5. Berkeley, Adrienne’s home for most of the memoir, was a hotbed of activism in the 1960s. Dive into this groovy and radical period by checking out an online exhibit of posters from 1960s Berkeley: http://www.docspopuli.org/BHScat/gallery-01.html.
Adrienne Kane is the author and photographer of the popular food blog Nosheteria.com, which has a permanent link on Huffington Post. She is a food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer whose work has appeared in Natural Health, Chow, and Digs, and on FoodandWine.com. Her personal essay, "Bring Tenacity to a Boil: Then Serve" is featured in Note to Self: 30 Women on Hardship, Humiliation, Heartbreak, and Overcoming It All. She currently lives and cooks in New Haven, CT.