Laugh out loud funny, seriously entertaining, almost overly informative--I did not know anything about threshing wheat until William Alexander explained it pain-stakingly for me--this food-for-thought journey of one introspective, insanely driven, nearly crazy man to bake the "perfect" loaf of bread sustains the reader. I was sorry when his journey ended and I turned the last page.
When Alexander tastes the perfect bread in a restaurant, he sets out to find how to bake the perfect loaf from scratch--I do mean scratch--he wants to plant his own seeds, harvest his own wheat, make his own flour, build his own bread oven--he wants to "return to the earth"--this is serious labor. He decides to tweak the "perfect" recipe and does a mountain of research, buying the best books about bread and seeking out bakers who live on the east coast. He even enters a bread contest in New York. Still not satisfied, he travels to Paris and enrolls in the hoity-toity French school Ecole Ritz Escoffier.
He ventures to Morocco where he almost dies and ends up in a monastery in Normandy where he instructs monks to use their centuries old oven to begin baking the monastery's bread. Each chapter tells that week's successes and mostly--failures. To sum up, Alexander tells the reader what he has learned in his year-long experiment: "--Bread in a healthy diet doesn't make you fat. --Too much bread, washed down with wine, does. ...Do not undertake any project that promises it can be completed in a week-end. --Do not drink the water in Morocco. Or the tea, or the coffee. In fact, you might think about skipping Morroco altogether. I hear Barbados is nice this time of year. --Trust strangers. Well, some. Only those you can trust. --Choose one thing you care about and resolve to do it well. --Whether you succeed or not, you will be the better for the effort. --Bread is life." (from the novel) I could almost smell the aroma of baking bread as Alexander described each week's offering. Well-written prose almost sings off the pages.
Alexander has the knack of mixing his memoirs with hysterical, often biting humor that targets mostly himself. This is a great Christmas gift for book lovers who also happen to love food or for that "closet" wanna-be baker.
Highly, highly recommended grades 9-up and serious food junkies. This is a great book club pick for all kinds of book clubs. 339 pages Ages 14 and up
Only one mature situation--Alexander gives up sex with his wife because he's worried about timing the yeast rising in his latest batch of dough.
Recommended by Pamela Thompson, Librarian, Texas, USA
Visit her ya novels blog at http://booksbypamelathompson.blogspot.com/