Miss Coconut Cake

I recently read The Coincidence of Coconut Cake: A Novel by Amy E. Reichert which I purchased because of the photograph of the spectacular coconut cake on the cover.  I’m not ashamed to say that I judge books by the cover all the time, and this one was pure and simple a case of YUM!  Doesn’t it look amazing?!  Especially since I’ve recently gone grain and dairy free – gah!  But I digress.

Just hanging out on a stack of newsprint.  

The book begins with the dismissive man and a woman in ridiculous heels that are causing her all the familiar pain.  It’s a symbol of a life that she’s taught to desire, but doesn’t fit her, doesn’t suit her style, and actually causes her pain, but hey – pretty shoes!  He is the sort of man who walks a few paces ahead of her and makes her rush along in those impossible shoes to keep up.  So naturally I hated him from the first page.  As she struggles to keep up with his self absorbed indifference, she’s comparing the way she feels in her sleek black dress to her favorite protein in sausage casing.   (That’s how you know someone is *really* a Foodie, lol!)  Finally their mismatched relationship ends on page 25, and not a moment too soon.  (Sadly, the coconut cake ends there also.)  Though for the sake of the story, Mr. Sublime Arrogance is still a presence until the end, because there are a few very specific details that need to be neatly tied up. 

Delicious!

The real story here is a cake that is baked with love by a woman who loves food so much that she will explore the restaurants of a city on her one day off, and will create lavish feasts at home after the long grueling hours of restaurant ownership.  This sort of passion and boundless energy may tend toward magical realism, but it’s OK to suspend disbelief where coconut cake is concerned.  It’s that cake… or rather, the fragrance, the coconut and vanilla, along with a hint of bacon, that attract the attention of another foodie.  He’s immediately smitten and in his mind she becomes “Miss Coconut Cake” which would have been a great title for the book.  A tentative and awkward (but delicious) romance is born.

The story is suitably complex.  Lou (Miss Coconut Cake) and Al meet at a news stand.  He writes as a food critic under the name A. W. Wodyski.  He’s a real Mr. Grumpy Pants about his temporary new home in Milwaukee.  He sees the city as nothing more than a spring board to a job in a larger market.  However, her love of food, and of Milwaukee food in particular draws him in and she takes him on a tour of the culinary highlights of their fair city on a succession of Mondays, her one day off.  Their connection to each other and Milwaukee strengthens as they share the bliss of beautiful food.  However, his misery increases as he realizes he really cares about her.  Something he wrote about her restaurant has come back to haunt them both and the story grows ever more complex.  The author builds the story as a chef builds the flavors in a dish, skillfully bringing each note together at just the right moment.  It’s sweet and spicy, soft and crunchy, smart and sensuous, and the bliss and bale of the story kept me in it’s grip to the very last page.

My coconut cupcakes from the days when I was also a chef and restaurant owner.

How any serious foodie can remove his shirt to reveal sculpted abs is beyond me, those two things don’t usually occur in the same person.  And why Lou has scars from kitchen accidents all along her arms is intriguing.  I don’t have any such scars, and I’ve never noticed kitchen scars on my colleagues, but after thinking about it, I understand it more as a device to show the contrasts between men.  One would seek to cover those scars with long gloves, the other would kiss those scars and get back to work making more ganache.  lol!

There is a misused German phrase, but perhaps it’s on purpose since it’s spoken by Lou rather than the native German speakers. 

There is a recipe for “Grandma Luella’s Coconut Cake” included at the end of the book and I may create a Paleo version of the recipe because seriously… this book has made me so hungry for coconut cake.  Speaking of hunger, in my opinion this book has one of the most pleasing and humorous sex scenes I’ve ever read!  Speaking of Grandma Luella, I had a Mennonite Aunt whose name was Luella.  Did I really just mention my Mennonite Aunt and an excellent sex scene in the same paragraph?  Yes, yes I did. 

Finally, I’m going to leave you with my very favorite morsel of this book.  It’s a conversation between an elderly pair of foodies who bring depth and richness to the story, and one of several spots where I started leaking profusely from the eyes as if I were a bad radiator.

 

“Yes, Fred and Ginger.  Otto and I are like Fred and Ginger.  Alone, we were good.  But together — perfection.”  This is precisely how I feel about my Austrian, and about second chances in general.  Sometimes we need to spend a little time with Mr. Wrong so we really know it when Mr. Right comes along.  

Thank you Amy E. Reichert.  I look forward to reading more of your delicious work!  Next on my list is Luck, Love, & Lemon Pie, and in May we will also finally be able to get our hands on The Simplicity of Cider.  Here is a great blurb about this one:  “THE SIMPLICITY OF CIDER is the perfect blend of sweet, smart and immensely satisfying. If foodie fiction is a thing, Amy Reichert is the grand master.”  — Colleen Oakley, author of BEFORE I GO and CLOSE ENOUGH TO TOUCH.

I’m so pleased to come across this blurb because it reminds me of a point I had forgotten to make.  For a number of months I’ve been exploring the use of food in fiction.  I’ve read a whole stack of books with food on their covers and in their pages.  I have seen everything from magical realism to mystery to memoir… all with food as a central part of the story.  And I agree completely with Colleen Oakley – Amy E. Reichert is the best of all of them.  Count me as a fan of “Foodie Fiction” in general, and Amy E. Reichert in particular.  Keep on cooking up great books, Ms Reichert.  Keep on keeping on.

Have you read anything by Amy E. Reichert yet?  What are your thoughts?  Leave me a comment below, I love hearing from the readers who drop by.

Stay Tuned,

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