Monday, June 24, 2013

The Lost Art of Mixing

by Erica Bauermeister

I read and enjoyed Bauermeister's The School of Essential Ingredients about a year ago, so I thought I'd read her next book. The Lost Art of Mixing is nice, but there is nothing that stands out about it. I wanted this book to be better.

I love food writing, and food writing isn't easy. There are only so many ways you can say "delicious." Bauermeister has to rely heavily on metaphor, some of which are lovely, while others are too forced and fall flat. Her writing reminds me of Joanne Harris (Chocolat, The Girl With No Shadow, Five Quarters of the Orange), but without the elements of mystery and magic. Also, Bauermeister's books aren't as good as Harris's.

That being said, the further you get into this book, the clearer it becomes that this book really isn't about food. The School of Essential Ingredients was, and there is occasional references to food in this book, but it feels like Bauermeister tried to force food into a story where it doesn't belong.

Bauermeister's characters are stereotypical: the troubled nearly twenty-year-old with boy problems; the successful restauranteur finding herself unexpectedly and inconveniently pregnant; the wife who assumes her husband is having an affair because she only has half of the facts; the woman slowly slipping into senility and her family and friends who have to cope. Everything in this book is connected; everything is a metaphor or a coincidence, each character trait or professional choice is indicative of things to come, and there is always some kind of lesson. It's heavy-handed.

The Lost Art of Mixing is a nice read. A nice summer read. It's a book that feels as familiar as a well-used cookbook: you follow the tried-and-true formula, and you know what you'll get. But the end result is pleasantly, reliably recognizable (and a little bland) (and cloying).

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