Pastries: A Novel of Desserts and Discoveries
Sunya Malhotra, a young American woman, is the head baker and owner of Pastries, a warm and cozy bakery in Seattle. Sunya loves baking and has transformed her fabulous cakes and tarts into delicious works of art. The success of her beloved bakery is put in jeopardy, however, when a chain bakery threatens to open up down the street from her. To add to her misery, Roger, her hip, Japanese boyfriend has left her for a "perfect" Japanese girlfriend and her mother has just become engaged to a man Sunya detests. Even a new relationship with a hot, young Film director who is in town to cover the World Trade Conference, can’t help Sunya with her biggest worry – she has lost her touch for baking.
Overwhelmed, Sunya is surprised to find herself listening when her new Japanese baker offers her a solution to her problems – enroll in a baking school in Japan! Of course, this isn’t just any baking school. It is run by a famous Japanese baker, Mori Matsumoto, and is based on the principle of mindfulness. Soon Sunya finds herself learning the basic skills of baking all over again. Is this what she needs to rediscover herself? Will she recapture her zest for work and life?
I, Sunya Malhotra, am a woman who lives to bake.
This morning I spring out of bed at 5 A.M., just as the sparrows are beginning to twitter, and soon drive, bleary-eyed, the ten blocks to my bakery.
Once in the airy kitchen, I go straight to the counter, caress its marble surface, and revel in the joy of its clean cool touch. Before long I am sifting the pastry flour into a mixing bowl with a rhythmic motion -- I can’t resist dipping my fingers into the sensuous powder. A glance at the clock tells me it’s time to stop dawdling start cracking. Egg yolks slide into one bowl, whites into another. The yolks shimmer like a pool of captured sunlight; the whites repose, a limpid mass that magnifies the mosaic pattern on the bottom of the copper bowl. Finally, I set the pieces of premium chocolate in a water bath over a low flame where they melt into dark liquor with a bittersweet perfume. Whipping egg whites became a ritual for me a long time ago and I begin to make quick strokes with a handwhisk.
In the background the notes of a Baroque melody float from the radio.
Roger, the recently departed love of my life, drifts into my mind. He adored that Baroque piece.
These solitary morning hours are still the hardest, but I am passionate to work, to bake my signature creation, the Sunya Cake. In only a few hours, a newspaper food critic will interview mw about my best-selling item. Just the thought puts me on edge.
“Those who choose cookbooks as bedtime reading will savor Kirchner’s baking lore.”
(Publisher’s Weekly, June 30, 2003)
“You will be treated to a story about awareness and rediscovery along with morsels of Zen wisdom. . . . The delicious plot keeps the pages turning.”
(Miami Herald, November 6, 2003)
“Kirchner renders the daily routine of a bakery in a deliciously meandering fashion.”
(Seattle Weekly, July 15, 2003)
“Bharti Kirchner serves up another captivating narrative, possibly her best work to date. . . Kirchner continues to explore the uneasiness of cultural and spiritual identity and enjoys weaving a narrative with the elements of two very different Asian cultures, something not often done by other writers.”
(India Currents, September 2003)
“A rising Seattle novelist (and former cookbook author) crafts a fine fourth novel.
(Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 4, 2003)
“Witty, sensitive …. Kirchner deftly weaves an intricate tangle and then gradually unties the knots toward the end…..The language is elegant.)
(San Francisco Chronicle, July 13, 2003)
“Delicious is how one would describe Pastries.”
(Northwest South Asian, June 29, 2003)
“Kirchner’s prose has an easy, unhurried style. Her talents as a cookbook author translate smoothly into fiction. We can smell her mouth-watering desserts right off the page.”
(The Seattle Times, July 27, 2003)
“Sweet savory details blend at quirky Seattle café.”
(Detroit Free Press, July 24, 2003)
“Coming from an author of Indian origin, this novel is very different and very refreshing. Is sensuous and richly detailed descriptions not only moves the reader . . . but provides an unusual background to the deeper issues explored within.”
(Reviewed by SAWNET)
Pastries is a “Must Read” in the August 2003 issue of Working Mother magazine.
Pastries is included in “100 to Look For” by the Seattle Times.
Pastries is a selection of King County Library System’s Good Read/Book Group Recommendation.