Photo: Jessica Fechtor

Jessica Fechtor was just 28 years old when a blood vessel in her brain burst while she was exercising on a treadmill. Newly married, she was pursuing a Ph.D. in Jewish literature at Harvard, and she and her husband had just started thinking about having a baby. Now, suddenly, she was facing a long and difficult recovery–one that got even harder when complications arose after an initial surgery.

Before she was even out of the hospital, Jessica started making lists. Not to-do lists, but grocery lists. She’d always loved cooking, and suddenly, the act of mixing ingredients to produce something delicious for herself and for the people around her felt more important than ever.

She describes what happened in a new book that’s two parts memoir and one part cookbook. It’s called Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home, and Fechtor (who now blogs about food) joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to talk about why she couldn’t fathom telling her story of trauma without talking about food, a favorite butter almond cake (find the recipe here), and what she hopes her daughters eventually take away from the book about their mother’s near-death experience.