A good memoir is like a good loaf of bread. First, there's the crispy crust, making way for the airy, chewy center. All this good loaf of bread needs is a wedge of cheese, a piece of fruit and a glass of wine.
Trail of Crumbs, a memoir by Kim Sunee, is full of the crusty tidbits and airy, chewy morsels of her life. Abandoned as a toddler by her mother in South Korea, Sunee was adopted and raised by an American couple in New Orleans. There, her Asian features announced her otherness, and distanced her from family and friends. As a college student searching for a place she could truly call home, she traveled first to France and then to Sweden. In Stockholm at the tender age of 23, she met Olivier Baussan, founder of L'Occitane, a French skin care and bath company, who would eventually form olive oil chain Oliviers & Co. She moved to France with him, beginning a decade-long relationship. During the often stormy connection, Sunee explored and deepened her love for food and cooking, became a loving stepmother to Olivier's young daughter, and eventually discovered her need to create something of her own, for herself, by herself.
As a child of the Asian and American cultures, neither of one of which she felt comfortable in, Sunee also never felt comfortable in France, where she was identified first by others, and later by herself, as Olivier's woman. Her attempts to find her own essence, through running a poetry bookstore, then through psychoanalysis, are at times encouraged and hindered by Olivier, whose controlling nature ultimately overpowers the relationship.
Trail of Crumbs also includes several recipes for Provencal-style dishes like cream of chestnut soup, figs in red wine and creme caramel, as well as some from her Louisiana upbringing. They are the wine and cheese of the memoir, bright spots in an otherwise crusty, chewy account of Sunee's search for a place to call home.
Kelly Koepke is a freelance food and lifestyle writer in Albuquerque, New Mexico.