Food brought Orange High School alumna Jessica Fechtor back from the brink. At 28, she suffered a sudden brain aneurysm while running on a treadmill. After numerous surgeries, she was nursed back to health through cooking — a process she explores in her New York Times best-selling memoir, Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought Me Home (Avery, $25.95), which mixes in 27 recipes. She reflects on her journey ahead of Nov. 9 and 10 appearances at the Cuyahoga County Public Library's Parma-Snow and Orange branches.
Something that's really challenging about being ill for so long is the way that it robs you of your generosity. It's really hard to be the taker from all of your family, all of your friends — everybody who wants to help.
I realized when I was writing [the book], baking is by definition an act of generosity. If you have enough butter, flour and eggs to bake, you have more than enough food. You have more than you need for just you. I don't care how big your sweet tooth is, you can't eat that entire cake by yourself, and you can't eat all those cookies for yourself. You bake to share.
The reason that baking felt so powerful was it allowed me to feel generous again and to be generous is to be free. You're free from the narrowness of having to think about only yourself, which is what happens when you're sick.
Then there were the visceral things. Being so sick, almost dying at 28, it totally rocks you. It rocks your sense of who you are, of life and death, relationships, parents, siblings, friends. Food, because it was always there, it was just something that could help me hang on. — as told to Sheehan Hannan