Thursday, September 3, 2009

Giveaway: Confections of a Closet Master Baker

Confections of a Closet Master Baker - Hi Rez Cover

Having this blog is rewarding in so many different ways. There are you guys, the best and most wonderful readers ever. You guys make me so happy! There's the way that I can just pull up some of my snappiest dinner ideas from myself... a little weird, but still happy. There's also the fact that I sometimes get books for free. Books! For free!!! I can imagine very few gifts better than that. Certainly, it was a fantastic gift to receive Confections of a Closet Master Baker for a virtual book club event hosted by the lovely Cath from A Blithe Palate.

I tore into my book impatiently and it was, indeed, a fun and lovely treat. Which is why I'm sharing it with you, the readers that make me so happy. See how it comes full circle there? All you have to do is leave a comment on this post and I will use a random number generator (or maybe the number of red chocolate M&Ms in my bag) to determine a winner, to whom I will send my copy of this book.

In lieu of a book review, we were all asked to bake something inspired by the book (very cool), and hooo boy, did I ever! I'll share that a few days from now, but meanwhile, the author of the book, Gesine Bullock-Prado, graciously consented to give a small interview about her book. I was thrilled to be able to "chat" with her. Thank you, Gesine, for letting us read your book and thank you, Cath, for including me in this great event!

Here's my interview with Gesine:

What inspired you to write about your transition from working as a Hollywood exec to opening your own bakery and cafe?

I moved to Vermont to write as much as bake. Once the shop opened and took every last vestige of energy I had, I stopped writing. But I missed that outlet, so much so that I nudged a customer/friend/fellow writer to start a writing group with me to force me back to the page. I'd also been asked through email, letter, phone calls and personal visits at the store the same question every day, many times a day: "How did you manage to start over and pursue your dream?" So when our small group met in the shop after hours, I'd have pages. I already had what I felt was a compelling story to tell, I just had to structure time to tell it.

I was particularly touched by your description of a baker as someone who brings out the little, impish kid in all of us and who makes the masks of adulthood melt away into the genuineness of a smile. I've definitely experienced that, on both sides of the table. What are some of the other things you find rewarding about baking for others?

Baking is a universal celebration. Birthdays, weddings, anniversaries. We share cake to mark these occasions. We break bread with our neighbors. We save room for dessert. We dodge traffic and break at least 9 state laws in pursuit of the Good Humour truck. Food memories linger. Being in charge of not only feeding someone but feeding someone a creation whose very purpose is to symbolize an event is huge. It's an honor and a burden both.

In the book, you talk a lot about your close relationship with your sister and your memories of your mom. I really enjoyed reading about it and I found myself chuckling over several scenarios and conversations that I could really see happen within my own family. When you think about your family, is there a certain food that you associate with them or are inspired to make? What food-related or food-inspired memories would you want to pass down to the next generation in your family?

There's something about ritual that stays with me. Those times when my mother would declare that we'd have kaffee und kuchen at 3pm was a rare treat. And often we'd go to the local patisserie and choose a few things to share. We weren't marking a specific occassion but that's what made it magical. We sat together sharing a few beautiful morsels, drinking fresh brewed coffee from the good china, and enjoying each other's company. Strangely, it's the coffee that plays the most prominent role in these memories. Fresh ground beans, carefully brewed and savored in bone china. That I'd happily pass along.

What is the one thing about your job that makes getting up in the morning worth it?


When writing, it's always extremely difficult to skate that line between being personal and revealing too much - how did you decide which memories and which recipes to release into the wild?

I'm a private woman from a very private family. But there are universal truths that we all share and one of them is our common search for meaning and fulfillment. When an experience related to my journey, I wove it into the narrative. Originally, I wrote the book without recipes. When I was convinced to add them, I made sure to choose a concoction that was relevant to the chapter and to the story as a whole. I also thought about my customers who'd really dig getting their hands on, say, Starry Starry Nights or Golden Eggs.

What is your favorite dessert to eat? To bake?

Changes with my mood, my location and the season.

Do you come back to Los Angeles, and also now that you're out of the Hollywood microcosm, do you enjoy any other aspects of the city? And to follow up on that, what is your favorite city and why?

I genuinely like Los Angeles, I just don't like the Hollywood Industrial Complex. I'm in awe of the kind and stable souls who play well in it's confines without losing their minds. There are lovely people who work in the industry, enjoy it and don't let the pervasive douchebaggery get them down. I'm not made of that mettle, so I wasn't able to enjoy the great things the city had to offer because I was seething most of the time. I can visit now and enjoy the place. And whether I like it or not, I did a lot of growing up there and I'm inescapably part LA girl.

As for my favorite cities, honestly I'm a mountain and lakes sort. Give me a steep hill to climb with a body of water to fish and swim. As long as there's a beautiful boîte tucked away where I can have a beer and cake, I'm very happy. But if I had to choose a favorite city, Fez and Paris. Fez for magic of the souk and Paris for being Paris.

And finally, what is the one question you wish someone had asked you about the book, and how would you have answered it?

I'd hope that instead of having questions, people are compelled to bake something with love after reading the book. But you have to share.


Egle said...

I totally admire you for your courage. Like an inspiration for living my life in a dream as i dream it.

Elra said...

Sounds like a wonderful book to have.

Gera @ SweetsFoods said...

This book sounds a must to read.
I'm not in US to entry but anyway I want to pass and say Hi!



Grimmy said...

I always look forward to your posts!!! Sounds like a real treat of a book.

*Ah Bii* said...

OOOO, I love great books~~!!!

Brentwood Kitchen Shopper said...

My favorite quote "I'm in awe of the kind and stable souls who play well in it's confines without losing their minds".

I think many LA residents can sympathize with that. I sure can. And, I love this place.

Ratna said...

Hi Irene, I'm a new reader of your blog. It's such a wonderful place and I'm gonna try one of your recipes soon. And the book sounds great too! Love, Ratna.

Happy cook said...

Hey looks like in US you hav emore fun with giveaway.
The book sounds really good.

Jane said...

This sounds like a very worthwhile read . . . I'm going to have to get my hands on a copy (one way or another!) ;)

Twin Tables said...

I am a kid in the kitchen. It is my "fun" time when I get home to from work. That is a universal truth and one I grasp and cling to every day. Thank you for sharing this with us!

Cheryl Wade said...

Thank you for the opportunity to win. It sounds like an entertaining book.

evelyn said...

wow, great book! thanks

Teach said...

I think this book needs a vacation in New Zealand :)

Ramya Kiran said...

This book sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

cpullum said...

What a nice treat!! have a great weekend!

Vicki Hsieh said...

Hi, I've a relatively new reader of your blog, but it's already inspired several delicious meals.

Sounds like a wonderful book!

thebrunettebaker said...

Jodi Picoult's latest book has recipes throughout...something not normally done. As a baker, experienced cook and reader, I love it when I find recipes woven into a story. I'd love to be able to change how things are and open my own bakery but alas, it's just not meant to be.
Kudos to Gesine for following her passion & her heart.

Lily said...

Just stumbled on your lovely blog--keep up the good work; photos are fabulous and I'll have to try some of your recipes!
Ps--hope I win!

Kathy M said...

Your blog is wonderful. Thank you!

Felice said...

One more entry!

balletshoes14 said...

I am a closeted baker myself. My dream would be to own my own bakery.