I love to eat…pretty obvious if you ever see me in person. I also love to cook but don’t often get the chance and I hate to cook for myself. My Granny, though, was an amazing cook. Every dish she ever made was off the charts awesome. I remember being in college and going to visit her. She’d make me a cup of cocoa and it always tasted so good but, when I made it, it tasted different. I watched her like a hawk to see what she did to it. The only difference I could discern is that she stuck her finger in it to make sure it wasn’t too hot. I miss that cocoa even these 25 years later so this book, Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra Cuevas struck a tender spot in my heart and my tummy.
Isabella, Isa to most people, grew up in her abuela’s kitchen, watching, helping, tasting the wondrous creations Lala whipped up. All of her happiest memories are tied to those apron strings. Now, she’s adrift with Lala’s passing, her parents divorce and her father’s new wife so she throws herself into her cooking. When she’s accepted into an exclusive cooking school in Paris, she jumps at the chance to hone her skills so that she can one day win the coveted Michelin award. The schedule is grueling but she manages to make a couple of real friends in the class but when push comes to shove, she makes a horrible and hurtful decision. Add to the mix a handsome Spaniard, a stepmother who’s pregnant and doesn’t seem to like anything you do, and you have a recipe for disaster…or for the most interesting and fulfilling life, depending on how you mix them all together.
For foodies and fans of excellent storytelling, Cuevas has a little something for everyone in this tale. It reminds me of Flavor of the Week by Tucker Shaw…I wish that they’d included some of Lala’s recipes, though they were probably guarded, old family recipes…oh well, sigh, I can always dream of Lala’s County Fair Royalty apple pie, right?