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From Scratch Summary, Characters and Themes

“From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home” by Tembi Locke is a heartrending and inspiring memoir that explores the themes of love, loss, and healing. 

The story intertwines Tembi’s journey from her youth to adulthood, her deep love affair with Saro, a Sicilian chef, and the transformative power of grief following his untimely death from cancer.

Full Summary

Tembi, an aspiring actress and art history student, finds herself in Florence for a semester abroad. There, amidst the rich aroma of Italian culture, she meets and falls in love with Saro. 

Their love story transcends cultural boundaries and challenges, leading them to a life together in California. Despite the initial reluctance due to her family’s history with divorce, Tembi embraces this love, finding in Saro a partner for life.

Their bliss, however, is marred by Saro’s cancer diagnosis, turning their world upside down. Tembi’s narrative captures the intense and challenging journey through Saro’s illness, marked by clinical trials, moments of hope, and the heartbreaking reality of his condition. 

Despite the pain and uncertainty, their bond deepens, showcasing the resilience of love in the face of adversity.

After Saro’s death, Tembi’s story takes a poignant turn as she grapples with profound grief. Locke beautifully articulates her journey back to Saro’s hometown in Sicily, where she immerses herself in his family and culture. This experience is not just about mourning; it’s a journey of healing and finding a connection to Saro’s heritage and their shared memories.

Locke also delves into the complexities of their journey to parenthood, the adoption of their daughter Zoela, and the nuances of raising a child in a multicultural family. She paints a vivid picture of the struggles and joys of their life together, reflecting on how these experiences shaped her and Zoela’s lives.

Throughout the memoir, Locke’s narrative is rich with the flavors of Sicilian culture, the warmth of familial bonds, and the healing power of food and tradition. It’s a story of navigating the choppy waters of grief, the search for identity and belonging, and ultimately, the enduring power of love. “From Scratch” is not just a memoir; it’s a testament to the human spirit’s capacity to heal, love, and find home in the most unexpected places.

From Scratch Summary


Tembi Locke

Tembi, the protagonist and narrator of the memoir, is an American actress and art history student with a passion for Italian culture. 

Her character is marked by resilience, depth, and a transformative journey through love, loss, and healing. Tembi’s experience in Florence leads her to Saro, with whom she shares a profound and life-changing romance

Throughout the memoir, her strength and vulnerability are showcased as she navigates the complexities of an intercultural relationship, the challenges of Saro’s illness, and the journey of grief and healing following his death. 

Her character evolves from a young student seeking adventure to a woman deeply rooted in the traditions and culture of her late husband’s Sicilian heritage.


Saro is a Sicilian chef whose charm, warmth, and passion for cooking make him a captivating character in the memoir. 

His love affair with Tembi transcends cultural barriers, illustrating the power of love to unite differing backgrounds. Saro’s battle with cancer and his unwavering love for Tembi and their daughter, Zoela, are central to the narrative. 

His character represents the themes of love, resilience, and the impact of a life cut short by illness. 

Saro’s influence extends beyond his life, deeply affecting Tembi’s journey of healing and her connection to Sicily.


Zoela, the adopted daughter of Tembi and Saro, symbolizes the culmination of their love and the continuation of their legacy. 

Her character brings a sense of hope and renewal to the memoir. 

As a child of a multicultural family, Zoela’s experiences and perspectives add depth to the themes of identity and belonging. Her journey through the loss of her father and the exploration of her heritage in Sicily is a poignant aspect of the story.


Croce is Saro’s mother, a key figure in Tembi’s life, especially after Saro’s death. Her character embodies the traditional Sicilian matriarch, deeply rooted in the customs and culture of her homeland. 

Croce’s initial reluctance to accept Tembi, followed by the eventual warmth and bond they share, illustrates the complexities of familial relationships and cultural acceptance. Her character plays a significant role in Tembi’s healing process, offering a connection to Saro’s heritage and the traditions he cherished.

Saro’s Father (Giuseppe)

Giuseppe, Saro’s father, is a character who represents the traditional values and expectations of Sicilian society. 

His initial disapproval of Saro’s relationship with Tembi and the subsequent estrangement highlight the challenges faced by intercultural couples. 

Giuseppe’s character arc, from rejection to reconciliation, adds a layer of complexity to the family dynamics and underscores the themes of forgiveness and understanding.


Franca is Saro’s sister, whose character bridges the gap between Saro’s family in Sicily and his life with Tembi. Her role is instrumental in navigating the family’s initial resistance to Tembi and in supporting Tembi after Saro’s death. 

Franca’s character represents the familial bonds that endure despite distance and differences, playing a crucial part in the memoir’s exploration of family, love, and reconciliation.


1. The Resilience of Love Across Cultural Boundaries

At its core, Locke’s memoir is a testament to the enduring power of love that transcends cultural divides. 

Tembi, an African American woman, and Saro, a Sicilian chef, embark on a journey that defies societal norms and expectations. Their love story is not just about the romantic connection between two individuals; it’s a broader commentary on the challenges and triumphs of intercultural relationships. 

Locke skillfully navigates the complexities of their union, from the initial magic of their meeting in Florence to the struggles they face integrating their vastly different backgrounds. 

This theme is a celebration of love’s capacity to bridge gaps, whether they be geographic, linguistic, or cultural, and serves as a reminder of the unifying power of human connection.

2. Grief and Healing

Locke’s exploration of grief is both profound and nuanced. 

The memoir shifts from a jubilant celebration of love to a solemn, introspective journey through loss. Following Saro’s death, Tembi confronts the multifaceted nature of grief. 

Her narrative takes readers through the initial shock and despair, the grappling with daily life in the absence of a loved one, and the gradual journey towards healing. 

Locke doesn’t just present grief as a solitary journey; she shows how it’s shared and experienced differently by various people, including their daughter Zoela and Saro’s family in Sicily. 

The memoir becomes a space where Locke examines how grief can lead to a deeper understanding of oneself and others, and how, in its own complex way, it can guide one towards a renewed sense of purpose and connection.

3. The Role of Culture and Tradition in Identity and Belonging

Locke’s memoir is imbued with a strong sense of place and culture, particularly the rich, vibrant backdrop of Sicily. 

The story illustrates how food, traditions, and familial bonds are not just mere aspects of cultural heritage but are integral in shaping one’s identity and sense of belonging. Tembi’s journey to Sicily, her immersion in Saro’s family traditions, and her interactions with the locals provide a vivid canvas portraying the role of culture in healing and finding a sense of home. 

Locke artfully weaves the Sicilian way of life into her narrative, using it as a conduit for exploring themes of belonging, homecoming, and the universal search for a place where one feels anchored and understood. 

Through this exploration, the memoir underscores the idea that home is not just a physical space but an amalgamation of experiences, memories, and relationships that shape who we are.

Final Thoughts

From Scratch” is a deeply moving and beautifully written memoir that transcends a mere love story. It’s a compelling narrative of love, loss, and the enduring human spirit. 

Locke’s ability to weave the vibrancy of Sicilian culture into her journey of grief and healing offers readers a rich, multi-layered experience. This book is not just about coping with loss but is a celebration of love, family, and cultural connections that continue to thrive beyond the barriers of life and death.