Karen Babine, All the Wild Hungers. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2019.
My sister is pregnant with a lemon this week, Week 14, and this is amusing. My mother’s uterine tumor, the size of a cabbage, is Week 30, and this is terrifying.
When her mother is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Karen Babine—a cook, collector of thrifted vintage cast iron, and fiercely devoted daughter, sister, and aunt—can’t help but wonder, “feed a fever, starve a cold, but what do we do for cancer?” And so, she commits herself to preparing her mother anything she will eat, a vegetarian diving headfirst into the unfamiliar world of bone broth and pot roast.
In an interview we did last year, Karen and I discussed food, family, illness, writing, and love.
This publication was especially bittersweet because it was the last project we worked on with Ned Stuckey-French before his death from cancer in the summer of 2019. Ned was the book reviews editor at Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction, where this convo appeared, and also a fellow collaborator at Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, which Karen founded and edits, and where I am a senior editor. We miss Ned terribly. He edited and framed this literary conversation with his characteristic generosity and wisdom.
You can read my conversation with essayist Karen Babine, “A Season of Cooking and Cancer,” here.