As most regular readers of this blog already know, Grenville and Beatrice (Pat and Dorothy) enjoy cooking — and eating as well.
We share a collection of cookbooks and clipped recipes, culled out over the years, but then added to over time, And, there's the endless variations of online recipes.
That said, reading about food prep and cooking is enjoyable. And, two recently read works of fiction by Erica Bauermeister feature both. Unlike other novels, like the Hannah Swensen mysteries by Joanna Fluke which include recipes for baked goods or the delightful recipes in Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, there are no recipes in Ms. Bauermeister's works. She has, however, provided some recipes on her website.
Ms. Bauermeister's style reminded me of a favorite author Maeve Binchy as she focuses on strangers brought together and united by their kitchen creations.
The School of Essential Cooking (2009) relates the story of a once-a-month cooking school that's set in a restaurant kitchen and led by the owner/chef, Lillian. Classes are held on Monday night when the restaurant is closed. Lillian neither tells the students about the recipes in advance or provides cooking instructions or precise measurements.
Instead, her eight students learn by doing and experiencing. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been upended by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains unsuspected surprises.
The story is not as much about food, as on the personal lives of students in the cooking school and their relationships with others — in and out of class. They've come to learn the art behind chef Lillian's creations, but it becomes apparent that each seeks a recipe for something else in their lives.
Only after finishing the previous novel, did I learn of a 2013 follow-up, The Lost Art of Mixing, that continued the stories of some characters in the previous novel and introduced four new characters. It starts one year after the cooking classes has ended.
The sequel, like its predecessor, is about food, but isn't centered around a cooking class. Chef Lillian is still a main character, but not the only one. There's the accountant Al, who finds meaning in numbers; Louise, his anger-laden wife; Chloe, an emerging sous chef; Finnegan, the tall and reticent dishwasher and Isabelle, whose memories are slipping quickly.
Both these novels were enjoyable and fast reads. At present, Ms. Bauermeister hasn't prepared (or cooked up) any similar novels.
What's YOUR "taste" in reading?