by Doug Beatty and Lori Hench, librarians in Baltimore County Public Library’s Adult and Community Engagement department
We host Baltimore County Public Library’s Either/Or Book Club, where we each select a book, read both and share our thoughts. May’s theme is Mother’s Day, featuring “Lessons in Chemistry” and “Egg: A Dozen Ovatures.”
“Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus
Academia in the 1960s did not welcome chemistry master’s candidate Elizabeth Zott and her brilliant mind; instead, it scuttled her research and ostracized her. As single mother to Madeleine, Elizabeth attacks parenting, dog ownership and domesticity from a scientific approach and turns her kitchen into a laboratory. Her unorthodox yet successful methods lead to a cooking show grounded in chemistry with Elizabeth as its contrary star, empowering women to slough off stifling gender roles and pursue their dreams. Both comic and inspiring, “Lessons in Chemistry” will all but guarantee that you’ll never look at a #2 pencil in the same way again.
For more on unconventional mothers, try Alexandra Auder’s new memoir, “Don’t Call Me Home,” about growing up with her mother Viva, a member of Andy Warhol’s inner circle. For readers of dystopian fiction, “The School for Good Mothers” by Jessamine Chan is a scathing take on parenting under bureaucracy’s microscope.
“Egg: A Dozen Ovatures” by Lizzie Stark
The egg is a simple, culinary treat. Currently, many of us can open our refrigerator and create a meal, bake a cake or whip up a meringue. But throughout human existence, the egg experienced spiritual significance, scientific fascination and cultural importance. The author explores the journey of the egg, beginning with the “cosmic egg” that may have cracked to form the Earth, and recounting exciting tales of egg hunters who would risk everything to travel through Antarctica to retrieve an egg laid by an emperor penguin. Granted, this is an unconventional choice for Mother’s Day, but in the prologue, author Lizzie Stark recounts her family’s history with breast and ovarian cancer, and how concerned she was about not having the chance to have a child of her own. Imagine her joy when she was blessed with a child, a journey that started with an egg.
You may also want to try “Homage: Recipes + Stories from an Amish Soul Food Kitchen” by Chris Scott. This memoir-style cookbook showcases the blending of two disparate cultures and is the perfect love letter to the women who came before him.