March 10, 2013

The Lost Art of Mixing

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister
2013 G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Finished on 1/30/13
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)


Publisher’s Blurb:

In this luminous sequel, return to the enchanting world of the national bestseller The School of Essential Ingredients.

Lillian and her restaurant have a way of drawing people together. There’s Al, the accountant who finds meaning in numbers and ritual; Chloe, a budding chef who hasn’t learned to trust after heartbreak; Finnegan, quiet and steady as a tree, who can disappear into the background despite his massive height; Louise, Al’s wife, whose anger simmers just below the boiling point; and Isabelle, whose memories are slowly slipping from her grasp. And there’s Lillian herself, whose life has taken a turn she didn’t expect….

Their lives collide and mix with those around them, sometimes joining in effortless connections, at other times sifting together and separating again, creating a family that is chosen, not given. A beautifully imagined novel about the ties that bind—and links that break—The Lost Art of Mixing is a captivating meditation on the power of love, food, and companionship.

Just like a delicious meal at one of my favorite restaurants, Erica Bauermeister’s novels are consistently pleasing and something to which I look forward with great anticipation. I received an ARC from the author several months in advance of its publication, but held off reading it until I had the chance to reread The School of Essential Ingredients. After listening to that lovely novel, I eagerly picked up this sequel and quickly devoured it, in spite of my efforts to savor it as slowly as possible.

Readers of Bauermeister’s previous works will recognize the short story-like style, in which she intertwines the individual stories of her characters to create a cohesive and satisfying novel. There weren’t quite as many culinary references this time around, but I was nonetheless happy to return to Lillian’s restaurant, with its familiar cast of characters, as well as the new additions to the group. As is her fashion, Bauermeister describes the method in which a recipe is created, rather than simply including the ingredients and written instructions. My mouth began to water as I read the following passage. Even without specific measurements and quantities, I think I can recreate this chowder without too much difficulty:

Lillian collected the salt pork and butter and heavy cream from the walk-in refrigerator, thyme from a pot on the windowsill, dried bay leaves from a glass jar in the row arranged along the wall. She turned on the heat under the pot and added the salt pork, which softened and began to brown. Her stomach grumbled; she remembered she hadn’t eaten breakfast and cut a slice of bread, taking occasional bites as she sliced through the hard white flesh of the potatoes.

She removed the cracklings from the pot and added butter and chopped onion, the smells rising up—onion never her favorite thing in the morning, but sometimes a chef didn’t have a choice. She poured in chicken stock then dropped in the potatoes, bringing the liquid to a boil and stepping away while they cooked. No point in pot-watching.

She returned to the walk-in refrigerator, using the intervening minutes to assess the food inside while her mind played with menus for the week. Leftover roasted red peppers and zucchini could be the beginnings of a pasta sauce; extra polenta could be sliced and fried in butter and sage. For all the glamour of restaurants, the underlying secret of the successful ones was their ability to magically repurpose ingredients, a culinary sleight of hand that kept them financially afloat and would have made any depression-era housewife proud.

Sensing the time, Lillian grabbed a package wrapped in butcher paper and headed back to the prep area. The chunks of potatoes had softened. She smashed one against the side of the pot to thicken the broth, and then unwrapped the package.

As the white paper folded back, the smell of cod rose sinuously toward her, briny and green, the essence of old fishing nets and ocean waves.

Check out all these wonderful events! (Logo and list borrowed from the author’s website.) It’s times like this that I wish I lived in the Pacific Northwest. We’re actually going to be in Oregon in late May and Seattle (Kingston) in mid-June, but unfortunately it looks like our timing is off by just a hair. If I could, I’d head over to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The Griffin bookstore is a delightful shop!


Seattle, Washington
It’s About Time Writer’s Series
talk on The Writer’s Craft (Turning Memories in Memoir)
Ballard Branch Library
Thursday, March 14th, 6 pm

Bellevue, Washington
Literary Lions
fundraising dinner for King County Libraries
Hyatt Regency Bellevue
Saturday, March 23, 6 pm

Cannon Beach, Oregon
Get Lit – Author Weekend
Panel, Q&A and other assorted activities
Cannon Beach Book Store
April 12-14

Bellevue, Washington
Cooking class
Sizzleworks Cooking School
Monday, April 15th, 6 pm

Kirkland, Washington
Reading and conversation with Jennie Shortridge
Parkplace Books
Monday, April 29th, 7 pm

Port Townsend, Washington
Reading and conversation with Jennie Shortridge and Carol Cassella
The Writer’s Workshoppe
Saturday, May 4th, 7 pm

Eugene, Oregon
Reading and conversation with Jennie Shortridge
University of Oregon – Duck Store
Wednesday, May 8, 6:30 pm

Portland, Oregon
Reading and conversation with Jennie Shortridge
Annie Bloom’s
Thursday, May 9, 7 pm

Welches, Oregon
Reading and conversation with Jennie Shortridge
Wy’East Bookshoppe
Friday, May 10, time tbd

Sunriver, Oregon
Reading and conversation with Jennie Shortridge
Sunriver Books
Saturday, May 11, 5 pm

Corte Madera, California
Reading and conversation with Jennie Shortridge
Book Passage
Monday, May 20th, 7 pm

San Juan Island, Washington
Reading and conversation with Jennie Shortridge
Griffin Bay Bookstore
Saturday, June 1, 7 pm

Wenatchee, Washington
Reading and conversation with Jennie Shortridge
Wenatchee Library
June 13, 7 pm

Leavenworth, Washington
Reading and conversation with Jennie Shortridge
Leavenworth Library
June 14, 7 pm

Leavenworth, Washington
Signing with Jennie Shortridge
A Book For All Seasons
June 15, 1-3 pm

Quillisascut, Washington
Special weekend cooking class opportunity
Quillisascut Farm
July 18-21
more details at:


  1. I've loved her other books and can't wait to read this one.

    1. I'm sure you'll enjoy it! I hope she's working on something new right now! She's one of my go-to authors.

  2. Oh gosh, I'd love to be able to go to one of the signings with both Bauermeister and Shortridge!

  3. Bauermeister's books on audio are awesome as Cassandra Campbell is a terrific narrator.

    1. Yep, Cassandra Campbell was perfect for The School of Essential Ingredients. I'll have to add The Lost Art of Mixing to my audio list.

  4. I loved The School of Essential Ingredients on audio. If Cassandra Campbell is narrating this one too, I will probably go that route again. Glad to hear The Lost ARt of Mixing is just as good!

    1. I really enjoyed listening to The School of Essential Ingredients for my re-read. I agree that Cassandra Campbell is a wonderful reader!

  5. So many cool things going on there! I've often dreamed about moving out there! I'm so glad that you enjoyed this one too!!!

    1. I'm lucky to have two sets of parents living in Washington and Oregon! We'd love to move there someday...

  6. I liked Essential Ingredients a lot. Off now to add this new book to my Amazon wish list!

    1. I'm giving an ARC away this week. Stay tuned!

    2. On second thought, why don't I just send it to you? Would you like my extra ARC? Let me know and I'll get it in the mail this week.


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