Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Good Reads

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?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. These sound like I would enjoy them. I don't bake much any longer, but for years we collected cook books from places we visited.

Kathy said...

Thanks for letting me know about these books. They sound interesting and I'm going to look them up in the library when I go to work today.

Out on the prairie said...

You have lots of free time I see. I am trying to stay ahead of the weeds. My daughter says she is too pregnant to bend over and weed so I am helping her also. Picking strawberries every day.

Sandra said...

I once read a set of books, about 6 I think, from the library and they are like this, and they do have recipes. they were mysteries and were related to food and recipes. i might remember later, but now i can't. these sound interesting.

Daisy said...

These sound like fun books to read. I like to read a wide variety of books from romance to mystery to biography to humor and more.

William Kendall said...

Thanks for pointing them out!

Anonymous said...

These books sound very interesting!I must see if I can find them here too!

I really don't like cook books, I have a few old ones and use them as a sortr of base for what I want to do and then I toss in what spices and vegetables I have around :-)

Have a great day!

Emma Springfield said...

They sound like good books. Thanks.

A Quiet Corner said...

They do sound like good books!...:)JP

Ginnie said...

You asked what my taste in books is. I love Historical fiction but may just give your recommendations a try. I like new and interesting recipes.

Ginnie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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