I only spent about 20 minutes plugging in what I typically read or have already read, easily broken down by genre as well as if you liked this, how about this? type of sorting. Quickly and efficiently with this information, the site set neat little boxes before me of titles I would probably enjoy. Some of these were already in the back of my mind as "to read" and others I had never heard of. What I loved is that this site organized my brain for me, and is cataloging everything. In one place. Without paper or pen. To boot, I can hook up with my like-minded reading friends and compare notes, titles, and opinions! It's like my own little book club for busy people...and I'm hooked!
Since I told the site that I have a sweets blog, it began to feed me foodie titles aplenty. One that stood out was Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado. Honestly, the authors name didn't even ring any bells, I was so entranced with the title and subject. I checked my local library and shortly had the book in hand under its softcover title My Life From Scratch. I was happy try another autobiography/memoir after reading that the author changed her life with a decision to leave her Hollywood life behind, follow her heart, and start a confectionary in quirky Vermont. Now, I dabble with that sort of dream every now and again, but I know better. Firstly, I'm not qualified, and secondly, I can read about it and be reminded that most home bakers are right where they belong - AT HOME.
There are a lot of pastry chefs and food bloggers that work in the baking/confection/pastry business and I hear a lot about how it's not the romantic dreamy life that we all imagine. Hard work, early hours, the never-pleased customer, the near impossibility of making any sort of profit...blah blah blah. I get it. I've had the fortune to sit face to face with some forefront Sweets Folk and hear about it first hand. But this book? It told me everything I've heard about but was giddily entertaining. And very very real. What if this home baker lived half her life in Germany, raised by her German opera diva Mom and mostly deprived of sweets? What if her sister happened to have grown up and become a famous actress? What if she really doesn't like most people? What if she gave you recipes along the way?
Gesine Bullock-Prado's life story seems too much like a movie to be real, but to my delight, it's all true. And it's not just funny and silly and sarcastic, it's heart wrenching and adrenaline pumping. Let me throw you a few examples to tickle you into getting this book on your own shelf.
In "Chapter Seven, Ode to the Oreo" the author shamelessly confesses that as a sugar-deprived child, she heisted a full package of Oreos from a friends home, stuck it in her shirt and bolted for an abandoned neighborhood tree house. Grabbing another neighbors mail right from the box for additional entertainment, she holed herself in the tree house and ate every last Oreo. I will let you get the book to find out what that kind of sugar rush instigated, but rest assured, she can be quoted with "to be alive and coated in chocolate!"
The juxtaposition of Hollywood vs Vermont can well be imagined, but the author's ability to strip down the stereotypes and let the reader peek into both worlds lets them understand that no matter where you go, people are going to be weird. The cold, carbohydrate-phobic and fame-hungry Hollywoodites who used and abused Gesine were, in fact, replaced by rural, persnickety, and sometimes unpredictable Vermonters who sometimes use and abuse Gesine. The beauty of this memoir? Because she was doing what she really loved, it wasn't really abuse. It was hard work and see-saw balancing of finances and energy. Her veins running with butter, sugar, and flour, her visceral connection to the act of confection-as-expression...down deep into the memories of her mother fueling her to persevere - 226 pages of proof that when you put yourself where you belong (with sweat, money, and tears) you'll feel the satisfaction. Germany, Hollywood, Vermont, her journey of each step was truthfully in her heart.
My last comment in this review is about something I swear I didn't want to discuss at all. I read a few other reviewers with their own opinions (to which they are entitled to) who bashed this book. For one reason. It made me mad. So, forgive me, I'm going to say it. My family is probably saying, "Oh boy here she goes. Stand back."
O.K. HER SISTER IS SANDRA BULLOCK! SO WHAT!
No, this book is not enjoyed by so many people because Sandy's name is there. Gesine did not find her life's work solely due to a famous sibling. To the nay-sayers, let's remember, you cannot chose your family, you cannot omit them from your life whilst writing your memoir. They are a part of your life. Gesine Bullock-Prado did her own work. Her own life searching. Her own discovery, loss, and joy. Like a lot of successful people, she was supported by loving family. It just so happened that one of hers is famous. The author as a unique and interesting life story to tell, folks! Sandy was a part of it - but Gesine's hands kneaded that dough. Gesine understood her customer's comfort with sweets. Gesine's feet ran her mother's jogging route to honor her life as she lay dying from cancer. This book is from and about HER.
If you don't believe me, I sweetly implore you to read it yourself.
I tell you, I enjoyed it so much that I follow a couple of her blogs now, including Living in Freegrace where she shares that life from scratch is about more than baking. Funny, honest stories full of raising feathered fowl (did you know that ducks are quite attached to their partners?) and being a "gentlewoman farmer-in-training".
If you have read or eventually read this book, come on back here and comment about your thoughts. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!