I had never heard of Tembi Locke, the author, actress, and widow until I read her story, From Scratch: a Memoir of Love, Sicily and Finding Home and I am now a fan for life. Her heartbreaking but life-affirming book about meeting her husband and the struggles they had with their families because of their biracial, cross-cultural relationship (she is an African-American and her Chef husband, Sarno, a Sicilian) was only the beginning of the sadness that would permeate their lives. Suffering from infertility for many years, the couple finally decided to adopt a biracial baby girl. The happy family was devastated a few years later when Sarno was diagnosed with a very rare and deadly form of cancer. As life-changing and sorrowful as this was, Locke’s patience, compassion, and perseverance infused their marriage and her caregiving with love from beginning to end.
It all began when Tembi met Sarno, a Sicilian professional chef, by literally running into him in Italy during her time studying abroad. It was almost ‘love at first sight’ and when she returned to the US, he soon followed and asked her to marry him. When he informed his parents that he was getting married in California to a much younger non- Sicilian woman, who happened to be an African-American from another faith, they declined to come to the wedding, cutting off all ties with the couple. Years later they reunited and the story moves back and forth from California to Sicily as Tembi begins to understand why Sarno loves his birthplace so much. Locke fills her story with depictions of the ancient Sicilian landscape, the unforgettable people who inhabit the small town where Sarno grew up, colorful descriptions of the fruits and vegetables grown there, and best of all the life-sustaining recipes her Mother-In-Law cooks.
This heartrending but uplifting story can be described in multiple ways. First as a love story, a family saga, an instruction manual describing how a person handles overwhelming, indescribable grief, but finally as a beautifully written lyrical meditation on how to embrace the positive in difficult situations, enjoying the present no matter the obstacles, forgiveness, mesmerizing descriptions of Italian and Sicilian culture and cuisine, as well as learning how to love and be accepted by a family in a foreign land.
For more on Tembi Locke, you can view her TED Talk and I’m sure you will also be moved by her grace, eloquence and positive spirit: Click here to watch!