I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book in a Twitter competition run by the author some time back. I’m ashamed to say it sat neglected in the pile of books by my bed for far too long. Now that I have read it, I wish I’d picked it up earlier as I absolutely adored it. The Art of Baking Blind tells the story of the Find the new Mrs Eaden baking competition, organised by high-end retail supermarket chain Eadens – probably similar to Waitrose. Mrs Eaden was the face of the store, famed for her baking and in particular her 1960s book The Art of Baking. Having passed away, the store launches this competition to find a worthy sucessor. I suppose it is similar in a way to The Great British Bake Off – each week there is a different focus for the contestants: bread, pastry, cake, afternoon tea etc. Unlike the Bake Off though, there is no weekly elimination. The winners of each week’s contest get to feature on a youtube video.
What I liked was, with no elimination round, I really felt I got to know each of the contestants. Vicki has been a very successful teacher but is now a stay-at-home mum to Alfie. Unlike in her working life, she does not find this role fulfilling and feels guilty because of this. Claire became pregnant very young and all her plans and dreams have been put on hold as she brings up her daughter Chloe. Jenny’s three daughters have all either left or are about to leave home and she’s not sure she is happy in her marriage anymore. Karen seems to have the perfect homelife and family but has not had the perfect life growing up. Mike is the sole male contestant and is bringing up his children after the death of his wife. While they seek to make perfect creations each week we see that their lives are not perfect and as Mrs Eaden shrewdly observed in her famous book “while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it is very much harder in life”.
I was particularly touched by the sections telling of Kathleen Eaden’s life as she writes her famous book in the 1960s. Although presented as the perfect wife and homemaker to the public, she has disappointment after disappointment in her personal life and my heart just went out to her. When one of the contestants comes across a personal letter written by Kathleen, we discover that life has been far from perfect for Mrs Eaden.
I think that there will be something in at least one of the characters that everyone who reads this book will be able to identify with. Sarah Vaughan has created characters who you will want to know more about and who all have a story to tell. There is sadness, hope, disappointment, betrayal and joy. So many emotions are explored in this book as well as the many different faces and roles of woman and motherhood. In keeping with the baking theme, I would say that this is a book to savour rather than devour.
Thanks again to the author, Sarah Vaughan, for giving me this as a prize. The Art of Baking Blind was published in paperback on 15th August by Hodder Paperbacks. You can order a copy here: The Art of Baking Blind
The Art of Baking Blind
There are many reasons to bake: to feed; to create; to impress; to nourish; to define ourselves; and, sometimes, it has to be said, to perfect. But often we bake to fill a hunger that would be better filled by a simple gesture from a dear one. We bake to love and be loved.
In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookery writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes.
Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs Eaden. There’s Jenny, facing an empty nest now her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife’s death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it’s like to have nothing and is determined her façade shouldn’t slip.
As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest choux bun seems the least of the contestants’ problems. For they will learn – as Mrs Eaden did before them – that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it’s very much harder in life.