The School of Essential Ingredients. Don't make the same mistake. Take the time to immerse yourself in that first book before picking this one up. Only a few characters reoccur, but you'll want to know Lillian and her restaurant before you fall under the spell of her world.
There are so many tantalizing tidbits in this story. As before, Bauermeister writes of the experience of food, and the changes it brings in people's lives. But, this time, food and recipes serve side by side with memory and stories. If food stirs up memories for you, recalls stories of your past, you'll want to savor the accounts in this book. Bauermeister allows a number of people to tell their stories, and then she mixes them together for a book that has no end, just a future. There's Lillian herself, who has owned the restaurant in the Pacific Northwest for eight years. There's Al, Lillian's accountant, who keeps his love of Lillian's food from his rigid wife, Louise. You'll meet Chloe, a twenty-year-old who cooks at Lillian's restaurant, and lives with a wise housemate, sixty-three-year-old Isabelle. It will take a little while to learn the surprising story of Finnegan, a dishwasher who loves Chloe. In this book, Isabelle is the binding ingredient who mixes all the people together. She's in the early stages of Alzheimer's, but still has people to bring together, and stories to tell, memories to share.
As always, Bauermeister's writing is filled with sensuous details of food and nature. Her characters come to life against a vivid background. This isn't a novel of action. It's a story of characters living ordinary lives against a background of their past. Lillian "had taken over a wreck of a building and turned it into a place where people ate or took classes and remembered, or learned, why they loved each other." It's a book for "memories turned into recipes, recipes turned into stories." This isn't a book about cooking, or recipes. The Lost Art of Mixing is about allowing life to unfold at it's own pace. It's about memory, and ritual, and the stories we tell ourselves. It's a beautiful book for those of us who enjoy a quiet novel of life and character connected by food. The Lost Art of Mixing is a perfect, comfortable book to bring warmth to the winter season.
Erica Bauermeister's website is www.ericabauermeister.com
The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister. G.P. Putnam's Sons. 2013. ISBN 9780399062114 (hardcover), 275p.
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