Briefly explain why you decided to write the book. Were any of the
experiences or characters inspired by real life? Are you Lillian? Did
you have your own Abuelita?
In 1999, we moved back to Seattle after living for two years in Italy.
I missed being part of a community of food-lovers, so I joined a
cooking class. The first night we killed crabs by ripping their shells
off – and while I am not Claire from the book, I was equally shocked.
The effect it had on me, however, was to get me thinking about a
fictional group of strangers, who would participate in such a communal
and intimate activity. What foods would inspire each one, evoke a
memory, prompt a life change? What relationships would form between
them? The characters and the food took me in directions I never would
Am I Lillian? Alas no, although I have often thought I would like to
be. One of the benefits of fiction is that it allows us to make up the
people we wish we were or wish we’d had in our lives.
Why do you think it is important for us to take time out to enjoy
cooking and eating amazing food? Our world is not conducive to the
slow, sensual way of cooking you describe in the book – women are
time-poor, distracted, and, given the current economic climate, on a
budget. Is it possible to experience cooking the way Lillian and her
Food provides us the chance, three times a day, to slow down and
remember that we have bodies and emotions as well as brains, that we
have taste buds and fingertips, eyes that see colors, and hearts that
can reach out to the person across the table from us. That, I think, is
the secret ingredient of food. And some of the simplest meals provide
the greatest satisfaction. Chloe’s tortillas and salsa cost almost
nothing; you can make great pasta sauces from left-overs you find in
your refrigerator. I believe that creativity – in cooking and elsewhere
– can be inspired by limitations, and satisfaction in life doesn’t need
a huge list of ingredients.
What is your favourite dish to prepare?
At the end of a long and hectic day, making risotto is one of the most
comforting activities I can imagine, just standing at the stove, adding
chicken broth a bit at a time, listening to people sitting around my
kitchen table talking.
What is your fondest food-related memory?
It was butternut squash ravioli that we found at a tiny restaurant in
San Gigmignano one evening, after all the day tourists had gone home
and everything was quiet and surreal and lovely. One bite and the
entire world slowed down.
I’m working on another novel with a new group of characters who end up
exploring everything from bread-making to perfume, tattoos to
river-rafting down the Grand Canyon. I’m having a wonderful time
About Erica Bauermeister