Rating: 5 / 5
Tembi Locke’s From Scratch is a heartbreaking memoir about incredible love, tremendous loss, and leaning on the comforts of family and food to survive.
While studying abroad in Florence, Tembi meets Saro. Saro is a chef from Sicily and is immediately smitten with Tembi. When Tembi finally allows him to take her on a date, their relationship begins to flourish – unlike anything Tembi has experienced before. Their epic love affair begins in the streets of Florence.
Tembi and Saro make a happy life together in Los Angeles that is clouded by Saro’s relationship with his parents, who still live in his Sicilian childhood home. When he tells his parents that he is marrying Tembi – a Black American woman from Texas -, they effectively disown him. The wedding is in Sicily, but Saro’s parents refuse to come.
Saro’s rare cancer diagnosis is ultimately the beginning of the end. When he dies, Tembi must learn how to survive – for herself, for her daughter, and for her also widowed mother-in-law. Each summer, even after Saro’s death, they return to Sicily to spend a month with Saro’s mother.
While in Sicily, with the help of her daughter, her mother-in-law, and comforting Sicilian food, Tembi is able to dive headfirst into her grief, attempting to parse through her memories and explore the vast possibilities for life after Saro.
Please take caution while reading From Scratch if any of the following topics may trigger you:
- Death and dying
- Pregnancy / infertility
This book is amazing – so heartbreaking and wonderfully written. The structure is unique and dynamic, and Locke’s life and stories are exceptionally interesting, if not terribly sad.
I love when a book makes me cry. In fact, I’ve been known to say “if it didn’t make me cry, it wasn’t good enough.” Admittedly, a book hasn’t made me cry in a while. But I wept several times throughout the course of this memoir – both because of the nature of the story and Locke’s touching writing. In particular, the description of Saro’s last days of life left me speechless and in need of tissues.
The theme of belonging is richly prevalent throughout this memoir. Tembi is a Black American spending large expanses of time in Italy – more specifically, a small Sicilian town known for its skepticism of non-Sicilians. She and her daughter – also not white or Italian – feel out of place in Italy without Saro, their Italian delegate. Do they belong in this country, city, even family, anymore?
Locke beautifully and seamlessly weaves her story of love, loss, and growth with Sicilian cooking. Food is at the forefront of her late husband and his mother’s minds. It welcomes guests, cures sadness, and nourishes the body. Her grief is directly tied to the food and dishes prevalent in Sicily and on her mother-in-law’s table, and she learns and grows from and because of it. This aspect of the memoir is deeply symbolic, as well as mouth-watering.
From Scratch is such a special memoir. It’s not fair that Locke can be exceptional at both acting and writing – save some talent for the rest of us! Her stories are beautifully written and exceptionally heartbreaking, and I think they will touch your heart as they have mine.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on From Scratch. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the memoir in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!