food / food writing / memoir / nonfiction / review

Bon Appétempt: A Coming of Age Story (with recipes!) by Amelia Morris

Bon Appétempt: A Coming of Age Story (with recipes!) by Amelia Morris is one of those memoirs written by a person who doesn’t seem to understand what she is telling us about herself. Some warnings—She has massive unreflected on privilege and an eating disorder she passes off as “dieting”. She got the book deal off the back of her blog but doesn’t start to cook until 3/4 in. What she does cook is pretty basic and uninspiring and without a lot of connection to the text.

A few thoughts—

Her childhood, although quite financially privileged seemed challenging and I didn’t quite understand how some of what went on at her father’s house was allowed to happen. Her parents were highly educated and while her mom was problematic in her own way, seemed aware of the stepmother’s issues and limitations because she sent child Amelia back with food.

Both parents and her grandmother sound awful yet she stays in contact with her mom constantly. They vacation together every year. Yet she also ridicules her mother for the most innocuous things like trying to save money on gas and groceries. Her mom’s suggestions for saving money could be annoying but you could also see where she was coming from as Morris and her partner seemed to spend money freely and widely on everything from flights to take out to vacations to the graduate school across country to high rent while working a revolving door of temp and minimum wage jobs.

Her grandmother made a dip from leftovers she kept in a car overnight to serve at a large party. Morris warned her brother and family not to eat it but no other guest at the party. It was smoked salmon and hot cream cheese off a half-eaten bagel. How revolting is that? Did she somehow think that story made her grandmother look bad and not her??

She’s very strange and critical of her seemingly nice and supportive stepfather (as told here, he is much better than either of her parents in his treatment of her) not drinking, and his healthy and religious lifestyle. He doesn’t want unmarried couples sleeping together in the vacation house he rents for them or in his home. She complains about this several times throughout the book. Which I can see finding annoying or dated but if you don’t like it, don’t go or rent a hotel room. I’m not religious myself but he seems to treat her the best out of any adult family member in her life. Maybe it’s time, as a woman in your thirties, to accept other people have different values than you and to give him a break?

As mentioned above, I don’t understand her money situation at any point in her adult life. Her husband is unemployed for over a year while she is in graduate school across the country for writing and doesn’t seem to be working. Her rent is cheap but he’s in LA paying their massive rent as well and working on a screenplay.

They fly frequently, she is working retail and stressing over a $100 necklace on a weekend trip with friends but her birthday/Christmas present from her husband that same year is a trip to Paris for two weeks? The place they rent is $800 and she gets some tickets with miles but still, that seems extreme for a retail worker and her marginally employed husband. She complains about money all the time yet they seem to spend a lot each month and she doesn’t ever seem to want to work a full-time or higher paying job even after grad school. Which is fine! I’m a freelancer myself but maybe someone should be working? She skirts around the “how did they pay for literally anything in their life in an HCOL area, frequent travel and $12/hr jobs” by saying they were using wedding gifts? How much money did they get in wedding gifts that it paid for years of expenses and what did they do in the years before the wedding? They were together more than 2 years before she, by her own admission, whined until he proposed and no one seemed to work much then or during the year leading up to the wedding. Her aforementioned stepfather paid for her destination wedding on an island only accessible by ferry so that wasn’t an expense but her daily living, including near-constant take-out food until she decides she wants to learn to cook must have cost something. None of this made any sense. Or it only makes sense if they had some other major source of income she didn’t disclose. Which, of course, she doesn’t owe anyone any explanation but when why write a memoir if you aren’t going to honestly disclose basic information?

Her husband finally gets a job and right away she decides to only work 3 days a week at a ceramics store and teach writing one day a week and yet they are able to buy a house in Echo Park? They have a baby despite her complaining they don’t have much money because there is no good time to have a baby? I guess they do always manage despite her crying poor all the time so why not?

At one point on their trip to Paris, she says she and her husband are two people who had hate to make other people, particularly strangers, uncomfortable and that is just a lie because she’d been making me deeply uncomfortable for 246 pages at that point.

She talks about wanting to be a comedy writer but this was one of the most deeply unfunny books I’ve read. Does she not realize how she comes across in the book? Does she think any of it makes sense?

I read her novel Wildcat before this and in reading this, I can see that she largely drew from her own life. The main character of that novel is a bitter, strange, underemployed, envious woman who lost her father and recently gave birth. The scene where she gets a gift from her father after his death is identical to what happens in the very end of this memoir. I can only hope the rest of Wildcat was more fictional and less autobiographical! It must be because in it she is very distainful of people with any sort of privilege and anyone seeming inauthentic and the memoir was one of the most blatant examples of unexamined privilege and inauthenticity that I’ve read.

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