Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister

I made a mistake when I picked up Erica Bauermeister's latest novel, The Lost Art of Mixing. I had read a fourth of the story before I realized it was the sequel to her enchanting book 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

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister. G.P. Putnam's Sons. 2013. ISBN 9780399062114 (hardcover), 275p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Rosemary said...

Morning Lesa - this book sounds wonderful. Predictably, our library doesn't have it, and Amazon UK is still quite expensive - but they have the first one much cheaper, so I'm going to treat myself. I love stories about people quietly getting along, especially in this weather when you just want to cosy up.

After building 2 brand new libraries & a museum, our council has suddenly announced major cutbacks, closures (including complete axing of the mobile library service) and redundancies for library staff. I can't believe they can have invested so much money in such fantastic new buildings only now to say they can't afford to run them. I know you've just been through all this personally. When will local authorities see that libraries are not an 'extra' but an essential means of allowing everyone access to knowledge? In this country at least, knowledge and information are once again becoming the privilege of the rich and powerful. Appalling, wish I could think of something to do about it.

Off soapbox now! Thanks for the great reviews - I don't know how you've bounced back so quickly! How are your cats settling in?


Lesa said...

Hi Rosemary,

The cats have settled in completely. It took a week or so, but once they had a new climbing tee, they seemed content. And, they all demand a little cuddle time, and I'm willing to give it.

Well, Rosemary, the only thing I know you can do for your libraries is speak up. Tell your friends. Complain to your local authorities. Let them know how important libraries are to you. And, if you've met people through the various groups you participate in at the library, ask them to do the same. If no one speaks up for libraries, libraries will disappear.

Hugs, my friend. I'm so sorry to hear that about your library.

Ingrid King said...

I can always count on you to find new, unusual additions to my reading list. This book sounds wonderful, but I'll take your advice and start with the first one. Thank you, Lesa!

Carol N Wong said...

Thank you for telling me that this book is a sequel. I have read other reviews but that wasn't mentioned! So, best to check the library for first book.

Thank you,

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Ingrid! I know I just fell in love with Bauermeister's writing when I read that first book. I hope you enjoy it!

Erica Bauermeister said...

What a beautifully written and insightful review. You truly captured what I think is most important about the book. Thank you!

Libby Dodd said...

I was enthralled by her first book. Now that I know there is a sequel, I must read it.
Her style is wonderful. The book (the first) was totally captivating and magical (in a real world way).

Tina said...

I've been wanting to read this one, and I have read the 1st one, but I'm suspecting I may want to do a quick refresh before I pick up the new one. I do remember the book being a wonderful read, and quite different from what I expected. Thanks for the heads up!

Karen C said...

The books sound wonderful, as is your review. Thanks!

Lesa said...

Thank you, everyone. I hope you do go back and read The School of Essential Ingredients. It will make a wonderful introduction to this second book, which is different, but deserves that introduction.

And, thank you, Erica, for saying I captured your book. I'm always honored when the author tells me that. Thank you.