The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis
Publisher: Delacorte Press | 256 pages | June 11, 2013 | Buy it
Source: Advanced Reader’s Copy from Random House
Olivia doesn’t believe in psychics. But the summer before her senior year of high school, she meets one in an elevator.
This summer will be pivotal, the psychic warns. Please remember—all your choices are connected.
Olivia loves her life in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, but lately, something’s been missing. And after getting this strange advice, her world begins to change. A new job leads Olivia to a gorgeous, mysterious boy named Theo. And as Olivia cooks the recipes from a vintage cookbook she stumbles upon, she begins to wonder if the mother she’s never known might be the secret ingredient she’s been lacking.
But sometimes the things we search for are the things we’ve had all along.
I have a soft spot for books that incorporate food, because, well, I love to eat good food. I do not, however, love to cook; that’s my beloved husband’s forte. As a lover of food, I am always impressed with authors who describe meals and cooking with a flourish beyond (“Sally ate her lunch”). Give me mouth-watering descriptions and make sure to tie in the food with the characters and the story. Stewart Lewis does such a good job of making his main character Olivia’s gift for cooking the central theme of his book.
Olivia’s cooking is what connects her to her restaurateur dad Bell, who lets her cook the Saturday special at his Los Angeles restaurant FOOD every week. The joy Olivia finds in the kitchen strengthens her bonds with everyone around her; she knows exactly what everyone she loves wants to eat. She feeds her starving-musician older brother Jeremy a spicy gazpacho she knows will lift his spirits. She makes avocado on toast (among other things) for her other father Enrique, turns a simple salad into a foodgasm for her best friend Lola, and wins over a boy’s heart (and stomach) with her carefully crafted meals.
“The Secret Ingredient” explores the various ways Olivia adds a dash of something unexpected to give her dishes a kick, and so of course Olivia needs the same for her own life: landing her first real job, falling in love, finding her biological mother. These experiences become the titular ingredients that add substance to Olivia’s life that wasn’t there when the book started.
If you’re looking for a foodie-approved coming of age story, add “The Secret Ingredient” to your summer TBR pile. The book comes out tomorrow, June 11.
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