Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Kitchen Reader: My Life from Scratch

This month's selection is "My Life from Scratch - A Sweet Journey of Starting Over, One Cake at a Time" by Gesine Bullock-Prado, chosen by Shelley from My Little Chickadees.

I'll say this right off the bat: I loved this book. It's light, charming and entertaining, which is all that I ask for in a memoir. Now if only the "Language of Baklava", a recent The Kitchen Reader pick, were this well written.  While I think the book's current title accurately reflects its contents, I really prefer its first title, "Confections of a Closet Master Baker" because I think it more genuinely reflects Bullock-Prado's delightful sense of sarcastic humor.

I finally figured out that the reality shows that suck me in and turn my brain into mush all have one thing in common - they depict a lifestyle I will never hope to emulate and a day-to-day existence so foreign to my own that I find it utterly fascinating. That's how I got sucked into this book. After all, this is Sandra Bullock's sister who ran her production company for many years before she threw in the towel and ran away to rural Vermont to open up a bakery, without any formal culinary or pastry training. The Hollywood angle to Bullock-Prado's life is captivating to me, from the time Sandra became famous and the description of the creepy fans/stalkers, to the vivid recollections of the emptiness of the movie industry. The rural Vermont, running a bakery, chapter in her life-story is equally fascinating and puzzling to me, since I couldn't contemplate being covered in chocolate and flour all the time, unless I was eating it.

Bullock-Prado is a great storyteller, and it feels that after the superficiality of Hollywood, she really found her niche in writing this memoir. Her family stories come alive when linked via a specific dessert and ties in beautifully with her tales of the daily hardships in running a bakery. Throw in the unusual twist of a famous sister who wants to help out but probably causes more havoc than anything else and you have a thoroughly entertaining read. It could just be that I really appreciate her sense of humour. Some of my favourite quotes of the book that cracked me up include:

  • "Contemplate your average grocery store loaf of bread. The wheat is most likely genetically modified and doused with a payload of pesticides. Then it's processed, stripped of nutrients and pulverized into oblivion. It's mixed with preservatives to allow for an abnormally long shelf life. And then it's cut into slices of fascist uniformity."
  • "Come spring, I keep my eyes peeled for the naked guys. Now and again some local young folk saunter down the streets in their birthday finest in celebration of spring's awakening, taking full-frontal advantage of our liberal laws regarding public nudity. (State law allows for public nudity, just not in state parks. Window-shopping au naturel is fine, but the law stipulates that you may not draw undue attention to your genitalia while doing so.)
  • "What I don't expect is to find a close-up of a prospective employee's lady parts. Posted not by some evil ex-boyfriend who took the pictures unbeknownst to the poor girl, but by the proud owner of the coochie herself."

As for the bakery, boy do I regret not knowing about her retail store before it closed at the end of 2008. I'm kicking myself in hindsight because in our trips back to the homeland starting in the fall of 2004 (Montreal and Ottawa, specifically), we would drive through Montpelier, Vermont and often stop in the quaint town for a quick break. We never saw any naked guys (though we will keep our eyes open the next time we drive through the town), though the husband once came across a group of Tibetan monks (a flock? tribe? gang?) with their translator in a coffee shop. I guess I have to settle for mail-order, and otherwise drool over her beautiful blog. I may even try some of the recipes from the book or her website. I think I found my new pastry crush - move over David Lebovitz, it's time to try some German pastries!


sarah said...

Aileen, I found her acerbic wit quite amusing, too, at least most of the time! One quote that struck me: "No one else was going to lead me to fulfillment and happiness.... I had to stop being a spineless weenie."

I also can't imagine living the life of a small business owner--it just all seems so thankless and could easily descend into drudgery, even if you do like what you do. Thank goodness we are just humble food bloggers! :)

Jennifer said...

I LOVED this book-read it last year. Gesine is a wonderful writer and I think I may need to order some of her macaroons.:)

Karen said...

Yes, her sarcastic wit was entertaining but could also at times slide down the bitterness slope. I enjoyed reading about her childhood also and you're right, she makes a person think twice about taking on the baking business!

Shelley said...

The three quotes you included here were also some of my favorites. Glad you enjoyed the book.

AJ said...

I'm glad to hear someone else enjoyed the book as much as I did! I think it's only natural for the younger sister (with a practically unpronouncable name!) of a very famous movie star to be a bit bitter from time-to-time. Instead of focusing on her sarcastic comments or complaints about Hollywood, I enjoyed the stories about how she changed some things and found a lifestyle that made her happy.

LA Pharma said...

T3-Cytomel.. I like this

Stacy (Little Blue Hen) said...

I also liked her sarcastic edge, finding it to be very honest. Glad you enjoyed it. =)

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