Quantcast Author Interview with Erica Bauermeister from HarperCollins Publishers Australia
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Erica Bauermeister

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 have suspected.

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 students do?

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.

What’s next?

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 writing it.
About Erica Bauermeister

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